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October 26, 2011

Miller Asks Judge to Order Labor Law Poster Seller to Cooperate with Consumer Fraud Investigation

(DES MOINES, Iowa)  Attorney General Tom Miller asked a Polk County judge Wednesday to order a Michigan company that sells labor law posters to Iowa workplaces to provide information sought by the Consumer Protection Division in a consumer fraud investigation.

Miller alleged that Mandatory Poster Agency, Inc. (“MPA”), headquartered in Lansing, Michigan, as well as its owners/managers, Thomas Fata, Steven Fata, and Joseph Fata, failed to respond to formal investigative requests seeking information about the company’s past employees and Iowa customers.

According to Miller’s district court filing, called an application to enforce, MPA has done business in Iowa under the names Iowa Labor Law Poster Service, Iowa Food Service Compliance Center, and Iowa Healthcare Compliance Center.  The application alleged that under these names the company has sent out notices and made telemarketing calls to Iowa businesses, churches, charities, and schools. 

“We’re concerned that these notices and telemarketing calls create false impressions about whether the law requires Iowa workplaces to buy and post the particular workplace-related posters that MPA sells,” Miller said.  “In fact, workplaces can get all required postings for free from Iowa Workforce Development, and they don’t have to pay this Michigan operation in order to comply with legal requirements.”

The enforcement application alleged that MPA’s so-called “advisories” featured official-sounding names, terms, and symbols that could make a workplace administrator believe mistakenly that MPA was itself an agency of government, or was acting on behalf of authorities.  The company maintains a mailing address on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. evidently, Miller said, for the sole purpose of misleading workplaces about MPA’s quasi-governmental status.

“Our concerns include the fact that some mailed notices appeared to threaten penalties – even jail – for failure to buy this company’s posters,” Miller said.  “And some of the company’s telemarketing calls could mislead Iowans by making it seem that the caller was contacting existing customers to renew or update earlier arrangements, rather than calling new prospects to get an initial sale.”

According to the application, MPA had earlier been the focus of law enforcement proceedings in 23 states and by the federal government.  Noting that earlier settlements had required MPA to make certain disclosures in its advertisements, Miller expressed the concern that the company’s marketing still created false impressions through conflicting messages.  “Busy managers and administrators of Iowa’s small businesses and other workplaces should not be subjected to confusing messages about what they have to do to comply with legal posting requirements,” Miller said.

Miller asked the district court to schedule a hearing and then to order MPA and its owner/managers to cooperate with his investigation.  Miller also asked that the company be prohibited from doing business in Iowa until it had produced the required information.


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