Forced arbitration the hidden enemy that has eroded our basic right for our day in court, Mandated dispute resolution impact, NY Times: Stacking the deck of justice
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”…Karl Marx
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”…Matthew 7:15
“Our right to our day in court has been severely eroded.”…Citizen Wells
Citizen Wells was begun early in 2008 to write about injustice.
Because of an injustice that has been done to me, I have done extensive research on mandatory dispute resolution which increasingly is being forced upon us. It typically involves a process of appeal, mediation and binding arbitration.
The US Supreme court has further strengthened the hold it has on us in employee and employer disputes in a recent decision.
We have all been concerned about our Bill of Rights, especially First and Second Amendment rights.
But our day in court is also important and it has been eroded little by little in most of the contracts that affect our daily life from consumer phone contracts and employment contracts to insurance contracts.
We can no longer assume that if a contract we have with a company is breached that we can just take them to court. And the companies (wolves in sheep’s clothing) control much of the process.
From the NY Times October 31, 2015.
“Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice”
“On Page 5 of a credit card contract used by American Express, beneath an explainer on interest rates and late fees, past the details about annual membership, is a clause that most customers probably miss. If cardholders have a problem with their account, American Express explains, the company “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.”
Those nine words are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations, an investigation by The New York Times has found.
By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.
Over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to apply for a credit card, use a cellphone, get cable or Internet service, or shop online without agreeing to private arbitration. The same applies to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.
Among the class actions thrown out because of the clauses was one brought by Time Warner customers over charges they said mysteriously appeared on their bills and another against a travel booking website accused of conspiring to fix hotel prices. A top executive at Goldman Sachs who sued on behalf of bankers claiming sex discrimination was also blocked, as were African-American employees at Taco Bell restaurants who said they were denied promotions, forced to work the worst shifts and subjected to degrading comments.
Some state judges have called the class-action bans a “get out of jail free” card, because it is nearly impossible for one individual to take on a corporation with vast resources.”
“By banning class actions, companies have essentially disabled consumer challenges to practices like predatory lending, wage theft and discrimination, court records show.
“This is among the most profound shifts in our legal history,” William G. Young, a federal judge in Boston who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview. “Ominously, business has a good chance of opting out of the legal system altogether and misbehaving without reproach.”
“More than a decade in the making, the move to block class actions was engineered by a Wall Street-led coalition of credit card companies and retailers, according to interviews with coalition members and court records. Strategizing from law offices on Park Avenue and in Washington, members of the group came up with a plan to insulate themselves from the costly lawsuits. Their work culminated in two Supreme Court rulings, in 2011 and 2013, that enshrined the use of class-action bans in contracts. The decisions drew little attention outside legal circles, even though they upended decades of jurisprudence put in place to protect consumers and employees.”
“Corporations said that class actions were not needed because arbitration enabled individuals to resolve their grievances easily. But court and arbitration records show the opposite has happened: Once blocked from going to court as a group, most people dropped their claims entirely.”
“Law enforcement officials, though, say they have lost an essential tool for uncovering patterns of corporate abuse. In a letter last year to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, attorneys general in 16 states warned that “unlawful business practices” could flourish with the proliferation of class-action bans.”
“The consequences of arbitration clauses can be seen far beyond the financial sector. Even lawsuits that would not have been brought by a class have been forced out of the courts, according to the Times investigation. Taking Wall Street’s lead, businesses — including obstetrics practices, private schools and funeral homes — have employed arbitration clauses to shield themselves from liability, interviews and arbitration and court records show.
Thousands of cases brought by single plaintiffs over fraud, wrongful death and rape are now being decided behind closed doors. And the rules of arbitration largely favor companies, which can even steer cases to friendly arbitrators, interviews and records show.”