Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D) has altered his policy on how to distribute funds from legal settlements in a move hailed by at least one vocal critic.
The Arkansas Project first reported that McDaniel distributed an office memo dated Oct. 11 outlining the changes, which you can read here.
The AG had come under criticism earlier this year for his policy — which had been in place for decades — to distribute money from legal settlements at his discretion. Some had questioned the constitutionality of the practice, while others saw no problem with the method of distribution.
The new policy sets a distribution method that will steer settlement money in the following priority order:
- Restitution to consumers or state agencies as designated by court order
- Designation of cash fund to state agencies involved in the litigation
- Payment of attorney’s fees to the state treasury
- Payment into the "Consumer Education and Enforcement" account
McDaniel said that the consumer education account would not keep a balance of more than $1 million and that distribution of payments would occur with 120 days of his office’s receipt.
McDaniel also agreed to provide quarterly financial reports to the Arkansas Legislative Council.
One of The Arkansas Project contributors, former Republican State Rep. Dan Greenberg, has been a vocal critic of McDaniel’s previous policy. He noted on the blog, "When public officials make mistakes, they deserve criticism. When public officials do the right thing, they deserve praise. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel did the right thing recently, when he announced a revised policy on the distribution of class action settlement funds. It’s a move that deserves commendation."
Greenberg added, "I can only hope that our legislators will do the right thing and dedicate these new funds not to additional state spending, but toward growth-oriented tax relief for Arkansas taxpayers. Regardless, McDaniel’s adjusting course on how legal settlement funds are handled is welcome news, and he deserves credit for making his office more accountable to the legislature and to the public."