Vildan Teske Quoted in Star Tribune Article regarding Forced Arbitration

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On Sunday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune featured an article about the current state of forced arbitration of consumer disputes: “Debate over forced arbitration finds its second wind, with help from events like Wells Fargo scandal.” Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel partner Vildan Teske is quoted in the article, noting that there have been recent developments in the fight against forced arbitration in consumer disputes, but that the latest changes only provide a “patchwork of protection.”

Teske has been a strong and vocal advocate for consumers, particularly in the fight to curtail forced arbitration and to reinforce consumers’ rights to use the judicial system when they have been harmed. Teske has presented on the issue many times, including along with U.S. Senator Al Franken and other notable consumer rights experts. Teske has also testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary committee.

For more information on consumer financial issues, consumer class actions, or forced arbitration, contact our firm or Vildan Teske directly.

Vildan Teske Elected to FBA National Board of Directors

Vildan Teske was elected to the Federal Bar Association’s (FBA) National Board of Directors. One of only four Directors nationally selected by voters this term, Vildan was recognized by her colleagues and peers to be a leader of one of the largest legal organizations in the United States. The FBA is an association of more than 18,000 lawyers, including over 1500 judges—and the leading organization for practitioners in US federal courts.

Being elected to the National Board of Directors is the culmination of more than two decades of service to the FBA by Vildan. She is a past Chair of the FBA Younger Lawyers’ Division (YLD) and the national recipient of the Federal Bar Association’s Robyn J. Spalter Outstanding Achievement Award. Vildan is a national leader among consumer and class action advocates, and recently has been at the forefront of the battle against forced arbitration in consumer and employment cases, including testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on access to justice in our court system, as well as recently speaking along with Senator Al Franken and others at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress. To learn more about Vildan’s practice click here.

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Vildan Teske Presents in Program with Senator Franken in Washington D.C. on the Problems of Forced Arbitration for Servicemembers, Employees, and Consumers

On June 7, 2016, Vildan Teske presented on a panel discussing the growing and problematic use of forced arbitration clauses in consumer and employment agreements. The event, “Reforming the Ripoff Clause: Why Access to Justice Matters for Accountability and the Economy,” was hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP). It included remarks by Senator Al Franken and Congressman Don Beyer on the issue of forced arbitration, followed by a panel discussion by a group of nationally-recognized consumer advocates.  The panel included Deepak Gupta of Gupta Wessler who argued on behalf of consumers before the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark AT&T v. Concepcion case; Julie Murray, an attorney at Public Citizen; David Halperin, attorney and public policy advocate; and Vildan Teske. The event was streamed live and is available in its entirety here.

Over the past decade, and especially in recent years, the scope and impact of these consumer and worker “ripoff clauses” have grown immensely, undermining the private attorney general system that has long protected consumers and workers from poor-quality, fraudulent, or even dangerous products, services, and work conditions. Ms. Teske spoke on a variety of access to justice issues related to forced arbitration in consumer and employment agreements, including, in particular, debunking the myth that “opt out” clauses provide a legitimate opportunity for aggrieved consumers or workers to seek justice through the public court system.  

Ms. Teske is a nationally-recognized expert on the topic of forced arbitration, and testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the topic. If you have questions about forced arbitration or other clauses that take away consumer and employee access to the public court system, contact Teske Micko today.  

New CFPB Rule Prohibiting Forced Arbitration Places Consumer Protection Ahead of Corporate Profits

Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a new rule proposing the prohibition of mandatory arbitration clauses that deny groups of consumers their day in court. In the last several years, many contracts for consumer financial products and services – from bank accounts to credit cards to cellular phone contracts – have included mandatory arbitration clauses. These clauses affect hundreds of millions of consumer contracts and typically state that the company can require that disputes with consumers be resolved by privately appointed individuals (arbitrators). Where these clauses exist, companies are able to block lawsuits from proceeding in court. These clauses also almost always bar consumers from bringing class action claims through the arbitration process. As a result, no matter how many consumers are injured by the same unlawful conduct, they must proceed to resolve their claims individually against the company, often before arbitrators that rule in favor of the company 99% of the time.

In 2015, the CFPB released a comprehensive study showing that very few consumers ever bring – or think about bringing – individual actions against their financial service providers either in court or in arbitration. The study found that class actions provide a more effective means for consumers to challenge problematic practices by these companies. According to the study, class actions succeed in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in relief to millions of consumers each year and cause companies to alter their legally questionable conduct.  

The CFPB proposed rule issued today would ban companies from putting mandatory arbitration clauses in new contracts that prohibit class action lawsuits against them. The proposal would once again open up the legal system to consumers. Groups of consumers would have the opportunity to obtain relief from the legal system, and many companies would also be incentivized to comply with the law. Also, the CFPB would be able to monitor the individual arbitration process, providing insight into whether companies are abusing arbitration or whether the process itself is fair. 

Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel attorneys have spent years both inside and outside the courthouse advocating for consumers’ ability to seek redress in courts nationwide when they are harmed by the unfair and deceptive practices of businesses. For instance, Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel partner Vildan Teske testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2013, advocating for the elimination of mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer contracts. Today’s announcement from the CFPB is a huge step for expanding consumer access to justice in the marketplace.

Scrutiny Increasing over Use of Background Checks for Employees and Consumers

The increasingly widespread use of background checks, or consumer credit reports, has increased the chances that inaccurate, unfair and unlawful information published or collected about a person may have an adverse impact on his or her life. More and more, employers are requiring job applicants and current employees to undergo background checks, digging through information ranging from criminal history to credit and housing history.

John Oliver, on his show “Last Week Tonight,” which aired on Sunday, April 10, delved into this growing trend and the many problems it causes. The discussion is startling for many who are unaware of the wide-ranging and frequently negative impact that this practice is having, and it also touches on several of the laws that protect employees and consumers in this area. You can watch the segment here.

Consumers and employees have significant rights and remedies available to them when they submit to a background check or credit report. For instance, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers provide notice to employees and potential employees prior to deciding whether to hire or to fire an employee. But many employers do not comply with this legal requirement. The Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) also contains legal protections that may apply. If you have been required to undergo a background check, please contact Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel today to learn more about your rights.

 

Supreme Court OKs Use of Averages and Statistical Analyses to Assess Class-Wide Injury

The Supreme Court ruled today in Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, one of several major class action cases that are being decided in the Court’s current term. The issue in this case was whether differences among individual class members may be ignored and a class certified under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (or a collective action certified under the Fair Labor Standards Act), where liability and damages are determined with statistical techniques that presume all class members are identical to the average observed in a sample. A second issue facing the Court was whether a class action may be certified or maintained when the class contains hundreds of members who were not injured and have no legal right to any damages.

In a 6-2 win for class actions, Justice Kennedy, writing for the Court’s majority, held that “This case presents no occasion for adoption of broad and categorical rules governing the use of representative and statistical evidence in class actions.” The court did not, however, decide the second issue as to whether a class can be certified where not every member has suffered damages. It said, “That question is not yet fairly presented by this case.”

Overall, this is a great result for the long-term viability of class action litigation, since the majority of class action cases are made up of class members who have varying individual damages. Statistical samples taken to determine average damages incurred per class member are commonplace, particularly in cases where there are tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of class members. Today’s decision upholds the long-held notion in class action jurisprudence that class cases are maintainable, even when damages incurred by individual class members are not identical.

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Consumers in Class Action Case

The Supreme Court ruled today in Campbell-Ewold Co. v Gomez, one of several major class action cases that will be decided during the Court’s current term. The issue in this case is whether a putative class action case becomes moot when the defendant offers complete relief to the named plaintiff, even if the plaintiff rejects that individual offer in order to protect the interests of the entire class of persons represented. In a 6-3 decision, Justice Ginsberg, writing for the Court’s majority, held that “[a]n unaccepted settlement offer or offer of judgment does not moot a plaintiff’s case, so the District Court retained jurisdiction to adjudicate Gomez’s complaint.” 

This is a great result for class representatives who, all too often, after filing class action lawsuits on behalf of others who were similarly subjected to unlawful business practices, face “bribes” by defendants in attempts to “pick off” the class representatives. These bribes come in the form of offering to pay the class representative much more than what his or her individual damages are worth as a way to kill off the class action lawsuit so that a company is not held liable to the many hundreds or thousands of people who were subjected to the same wrongful treatment.  

If you feel that you have been the victim of unfair business practices or have questions about consumer class action lawsuits, contact us today.

$82 Million Jury Verdict against Debt Collection Firm

This week a jury in Kansas City, Missouri awarded a consumer $251,000 in damages and $82 million in punitive damages in a case against the national debt collection firm, Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC (“PRA”).   PRA pursued the plaintiff, a Kansas City woman, for a debt she repeatedly told them was not hers.  She was represented by the law firm of Slough, Connealy, Irwin & Madden, a firm with which Teske Katz Kitzer & Rochel has co-counseled on several consumer class actions over the years.  The Kansas City Star has a story about the verdict here