On August 10, Michigan Attorney General (AG) Dana Nessel issued a press release to report the success of the new Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program that was launched in February. AG Nessel launched the new program to promote licensing compliance, ensure restitution to victims, and efficiently resolve cases of Michigan consumer complaints of harm caused by unlicensed builders in the state.

Operating without the requisite builder license in the state of Michigan is a crime. Since 2020, cases of unlicensed builders have significantly increased. In 2022 alone, the AG’s Criminal Trials and Appeals division handled more than 200 misdemeanor unlicensed builder cases.

However, the Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program allows unlicensed contractors to participate in mediation while avoiding criminal prosecution so long as they quickly comply with state licensing requirements and fully reimburse the complainant. To be eligible for the program, the builder must not have any prior violations of the unlicensed builder statute and the restitution owed must be less than $10,000. Once the builder is accepted into the program, the AG will close the criminal complaint against the builder, without pursuing criminal charges if: (1) full restitution has been paid to the victim; and (2) the builder either proves they are no longer working in the field requiring licensure, or they come into full compliance with all licensing requirements set by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Since the program launched, it has secured $72,500 in restitution to Michigan residents. AG Nessel reports that, “[t]he Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program has been very successful over its first few months, securing tens of thousands of dollars in restitution to consumers harmed by substandard and unlicensed contractors. This program has proven to be effective in tackling the uptick in unlicensed builder cases we have seen in recent years and is working to resolve these issues without criminal trials in the courts requiring further resources of the state. I am very thankful to the attorneys in my department’s criminal trials and appeals division for all of their hard work in establishing this program and securing justice for Michigan consumers.”

Why It Matters

The Unlicensed Builders Pretrial Diversion Program is an unexpected initiative launched by a Democratic AG because it affords businesses the opportunity to evade prosecution should they satisfy the program’s requirements. We will continue to monitor AG Nessel’s activity to see if similar initiatives are rolled out for other industries apart from construction.

Troutman Pepper State Attorneys General Team

Ashley Taylor – Co-leader and Firm Vice Chair
Ashley is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. He focuses primarily on federal and state government regulatory and enforcement matters involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Drawing upon his experience as a deputy attorney general, Ashley has developed an extensive consumer practice with regard to the consumer financial services industry.
Clay Friedman – Co-leader
Clay is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group and co-leader of the State Attorneys General practice. Informed by nearly a decade in a state attorneys general office, and more than 25 years in private practice, Clay spends much of his time representing clients in singular or multistate regulatory actions. Clay has repeatedly led teams before all 50 state attorneys general and also handles matters with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other local, state and federal agencies.
Judy Jagdmann
Judy is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy and Enforcement (RISE) practice, based in the Richmond office. She brings experience serving as chair and commissioner of the Virginia State Corporate Commission (VSCC) from 2006 through 2022, which includes regulating the utilities, insurance, banking, and securities industries. She also served as Virginia’s attorney general from 2005-2006.
Stephen Piepgrass
Stephen represents clients interacting with, and being investigated by, state attorneys general and other enforcement bodies, including the CFPB and FTC, as well as clients involved with litigation, particularly in heavily regulated industries.
Avi Schick
A former deputy attorney general of New York, Avi applies his experience in bet-the-company matters, representing clients in criminal and civil investigations and enforcement actions before state and federal regulators, prosecutors and enforcement agencies.
Michael Yaghi
Michael handles high-profile state attorneys general, FTC, and CFPB investigations by advising clients through these complex government inquiries. He assists clients through the entire life cycle of investigations, from regulatory enforcement through formal litigation.
Ketan Bhirud
As a former government official at the state and federal level, Ketan leverages extensive experience in the public and private sectors to skillfully represent client interests.
Tim Bado
Tim is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, with a primary focus on financial services litigation.
Chris Carlson
Chris represents clients in regulatory, civil and criminal investigations and litigation. In his practice, Chris regularly employs his prior regulatory experience to benefit clients who are interacting with and being investigated by state attorneys general.
Natalia Jacobo
Natalia is an associate in the firm’s business litigation practice. She recently received her J.D from the University of California, Davis School of Law.
Namrata Kang
Namrata is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group, based in the Washington, D.C. office. Her work includes advising clients in regulatory investigations and compliance matters, in addition to representing clients in civil litigation matters.
Michael Lafleur
Michael is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy, and Enforcement Practice Group. Based out of the firm’s Boston office, Mike has deep experience in litigation, investigations, and other regulatory matters involving state-level regulators and state attorneys general.
Susan Nikdel
Susan is an associate in the firm’s Consumer Financial Services Practice Group, and focuses her practice on consumer financial services matters. She has defended several of the nation’s largest and most influential financial institutions in individual and class action litigation involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and other consumer privacy statutes. Susan also represents banks, fintechs, and financial services companies in connection with regulatory examinations and investigations brought by the CFPB, state attorneys general, and the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
John Sample
John represents clients in a wide variety of general and complex litigation matters, shareholder disputes, products liability, and privacy claims.
Whitney Shephard
Whitney is an attorney in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement (RISE) Practice Group. She represents clients facing state and federal regulatory investigations and enforcement actions, as well as related civil litigation.
Trey Smith
Trey is an associate in the firm’s Regulatory Investigations, Strategy + Enforcement practice. His experience includes serving as a summer associate at the firm in 2021.
Daniel Waltz
An experienced litigator, Daniel advises and represents regional, national and international companies, financial institutions and insurers in all facets of business, complex commercial and insurance coverage litigation. He is committed to working with his clients to find creative solutions to meet their needs.
Stephanie Kozol
Stephanie is Troutman Pepper’s senior government relations manager in the state attorneys general department.