Code of Virginia

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Code of Virginia
Title 38.2. Insurance
Chapter 19. Regulation of Rates Generally
2/22/2024

§ 38.2-1916.1. Investigation by Attorney General of suspected violations; investigative demand to witnesses; access to business records, etc.; penalties.

A. 1. Whenever it appears to the Attorney General, either upon complaint or otherwise, that any person has engaged in, or is engaging in, or is about to engage in any act or practice prohibited by § 38.2-1916, or any violation of subsection D of § 38.2-1919, the Attorney General may, consistent with his powers and duties to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth prohibiting conduct that unreasonably restrains trade, after notice to the Commission:

a. Either require or permit such person to file with him a statement in writing or otherwise, under oath, as to all facts and circumstances concerning the subject matter;

b. Require such other data and information as he may deem relevant to the subject matter of an investigation of a possible violation of § 38.2-1916 or subsection D of § 38.2-1919; and

c. Issue an investigative demand to witnesses by which he may (i) compel the attendance of such witnesses; (ii) examine such witnesses under oath before himself or the Commission; (iii) subject to subsection B of this section, require the production of any documents or things that he deems relevant or material to the inquiry; and (iv) issue written interrogatories to be answered by the witness served or, if the witness served is a public or private corporation or a partnership or association or governmental agency, by any officer or agent, who shall furnish such information as is available to the witness.

2. The investigative powers authorized shall not abate or terminate by reason of any action or proceeding brought by the Attorney General or the Commission under this title. When a document or thing is demanded by an investigative demand, that demand shall not (i) contain any requirement that would be unreasonable or improper if contained in a subpoena duces tecum issued by a court of this Commonwealth; or (ii) require the disclosure of any document or thing that would be privileged, or production of which for any other reason would not be required by a subpoena duces tecum issued by a court of this Commonwealth.

B. Where the information requested pursuant to an investigative demand may be derived or ascertained from the business records of the party upon whom the interrogatory has been served or from an examination, audit, or inspection of such business records, or from a compilation, abstract, or summary based therein, and the burden of deriving or ascertaining the answer is substantially the same for the Attorney General as for the party from whom such information is requested, it shall be sufficient for that party to specify the records from which the answer may be derived or ascertained and to afford the Attorney General, or other individuals properly designated by the Attorney General, reasonable opportunity to examine, audit, or inspect such records and to make copies, compilations, abstracts, or summaries. The Attorney General is authorized, and may so elect, to require the production pursuant to this section, of documents or things before or after the taking of any testimony of the person summoned pursuant to an investigative demand, in which event, those documents or things shall be made available for inspection and copying during normal business hours at the principal place of business of the person served, or at such other time and place as may be agreed upon by the person served and the Attorney General.

C. Any investigative demand issued by the Attorney General under this section shall contain (i) a citation to this statute and section, (ii) a citation to the statute and section pertaining to the alleged violation under investigation, (iii) the subject matter of the investigation, and (iv) the date, place, and time the person is required to appear to produce testimony or documentary material in his possession, custody or control. Such date shall not be less than twenty days from the date of the investigative demand. Where documentary material is required to be produced, it shall be described by class so as to clearly indicate the material demanded.

D. Service of an investigative demand as provided in this section may be made by:

1. Delivery of a duly executed copy thereof to the person served or, if a person is not a natural person, to the principal place of business of the person to be served; or

2. Mailing by certified mail, return receipt requested, a duly executed copy thereof addressed to the person to be served at his principal place of business in this Commonwealth, or if that person has no place of business in this Commonwealth, to his principal office.

E. Within twenty days after the service of any such demand upon any person or enterprise, or at any time before the return date specified in the demand, whichever period is shorter, such party may file with the Commission and serve upon the Attorney General a petition for an order of the Commission modifying or setting aside such demand. The time allowed for compliance with the demand, in whole or in part as deemed proper and ordered by the Commission, shall not run during the pendency of such petition in the Commission. Such petition shall specify each ground upon which the petitioner relies in seeking such relief, and may be based upon any failure of such demand to comply with the provisions of this section or upon any constitutional or other legal right or privilege of such party. The provisions of this subsection shall be the exclusive means for a witness summoned pursuant to an investigative demand under this section to challenge an investigative demand issued pursuant to subsection A of this section.

F. The examination of all witnesses under this section shall be conducted by the Attorney General, or his designee, before an officer authorized to administer oaths in this Commonwealth. The testimony shall be taken stenographically or by a sound-recording device and shall be transcribed.

G. Any person required to testify or to submit documentary evidence shall be entitled, on payment of lawfully prescribed cost, to procure a copy of any document produced by such person and of his own testimony as stenographically reported or, in the case of depositions, as reduced to writing by or under the direction of a person taking the deposition. Any party compelled to testify or to produce documents or things may be accompanied and advised by counsel, but counsel may not, as a matter of right, otherwise participate in the investigation.

H. All persons served with an investigative demand by the Attorney General under this section, other than any person or persons whose conduct or practices are being investigated or any officer, director, or person in the employ of such person under investigation, shall be paid the same fees and mileage as paid witnesses in the courts of this Commonwealth. No person shall be excused from attending such inquiry pursuant to the mandate of an investigative demand, from producing a document or thing, or from being examined or required to answer questions, on the ground of failure to tender or pay a witness fee or mileage, unless a demand therefor is made at the time testimony is about to be taken and is made as a condition precedent to offering such production or testimony and unless payment is not made.

I. Any natural person who neglects or refuses (i) to attend and testify, (ii) to answer any lawful inquiry, or (iii) to produce documents or things, if in his power to do so, in obedience of an investigative demand or lawful request of the Attorney General or those properly authorized by the Attorney General, pursuant to this section, shall be subject to the penalty provisions of § 38.2-218. Any natural person who commits perjury, false swearing, or contempt in answering or failing to answer, or in producing a document or thing or failing to do so in accordance with an investigative demand or lawful request by the Attorney General, pursuant to this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction therefor by a court of competent jurisdiction shall be punished by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year, or both.

J. In any investigation brought by the Attorney General pursuant to this chapter, no individual shall be excused from attending, testifying or producing documentary material, objects, or intangible things in obedience to an investigative demand or under order of the Commission on the ground that the testimony, document, or thing required of him may tend to incriminate him or subject him to any penalty. No testimony or other information compelled either by the Attorney General or under order of the Commission or a court or any information directly or indirectly derived from such testimony or other information may be used against the individual or witness in any criminal case. However, he may be prosecuted or subjected to penalty or forfeiture for any perjury, false swearing, or contempt committed in answering or failing to answer, or in producing any document or thing or failing to do so in accordance with the demand of the Attorney General or the Commission. If an individual refuses to testify or produce any document or thing after being granted immunity from criminal prosecution and after being ordered to testify or produce any document or thing as authorized by this section, he may be found to be in civil contempt by a court of competent jurisdiction and incarcerated until such time as he purges himself of contempt by testifying, producing such document or thing, or presenting a written statement as ordered. Such finding of contempt shall not prevent the Attorney General from instituting other appropriate contempt proceedings against any person who violates any of the provisions of this section.

K. It shall be the duty of all public state and local officials, their employees, and all other persons to render and furnish to the Attorney General or his designee, when so requested, all information and assistance in their possession or within their power. Any officer participating in such inquiry and any person examined as a witness upon such inquiry who discloses to any person other than the Attorney General the name of any witness examined or any other information obtained upon such inquiry, except as so directed by the Attorney General, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the sanctions prescribed in subsection I of this section. Such inquiry may upon written authorization by the Attorney General be made public.

L. The Attorney General may recommend rules and regulations to implement and carry out the provisions of this section. All such rules and regulations shall be subject to the approval of the Commission.

M. It shall be the duty of the Attorney General, or his designees, to maintain the secrecy of all evidence, testimony, documents, or other results of such investigations until formal proceedings are instituted. Violation of this subsection shall be punishable pursuant to § 38.2-218. Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prevent the disclosure of any such investigative evidence by the Attorney General in his discretion to the Commissioner of Insurance, the State Corporation Commission, or to any federal or state law-enforcement authority that has restrictions governing confidentiality similar to those contained in this subsection.

1990, c. 596; 2002, c. 472.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of this section may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.