The UCL Practitioner
Monday, August 02, 2004
San Francisco City Attorney's remarks on the UCL
At the State Bar's Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law Section's annual UCL conference in May, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera was the keynote luncheon speaker. He had these observations about the UCL:

In a competitive environment that tolerates unfair practices as a means to gain advantage, fairness itself is a competitive disadvantage. That's why I'm convinced that anyone who describes the Unfair Competition Law as anti-business has never run a business—at least not an honest one. ....

And that brings up another aspect of the public debate over §17200 that you may not think applies to public prosecutors. And that's the concept of "Private Attorneys General"—lawyers who are not elected, who are not accountable to voters, and who don't necessarily represent anyone who's been damaged by unfair competition. But who are authorized nonetheless to sue under §17200 in much the way [Attorney General] Bill Lockyer or [San Francisco District Attorney] Kamala Harris or I would. Now as I said, some of you may not think that public prosecutors have a stake in that discussion. Let me disabuse you of that notion.

First, it's important to understand that public prosecutors often work alongside the private plaintiffs' bar on matters of mutual interest. [citing examples] ....

The second reason public prosecutors have an important stake in Private A.G.'s suits is probably more intuitive—and that's resources. You remember me mentioning that 58 D.A.s, 4 City Attorneys and the state A.G. could file §17200 actions in the name of the People. That's a total of 63 public agencies to police the marketplace. And that may sound pretty good—until you consider that the marketplace of California is the fifth largest economy in the world[, w]ith more than 36 million consumers.... And when you consider all that, you realize that the 63 of us have our hands full. So I would be happy to consider any legislative or ballot proposal to end Private A.G. suits, provided, of course, that we 63 public prosecutors also get the thousand-fold increase in staff and billions of dollars in additional budgets to do an adequate job all by ourselves. ....

City Attorney Herrera's complete remarks are accessible here.
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