On December 10, 2019, Marisa Katz presented at the MSBA-sponsored CLE Can Consumer Arbitration Be Fair and Equitable? Marisa was one of three panelists addressing the everyday implications for consumers who are cheated by businesses when forced arbitration clauses and class action bans prevent any redress in a court of law. Given the Federal Arbitration Act and the Supreme Court’s expansive reading of that Act, federal courts are, by and large, not open to consumer plaintiffs with disputes against businesses that use these unfair agreements, where negotiation is impossible, and where arbitration proceedings are kept out of the public eye. This event was co-sponsored by the Alternative Dispute Resolution and Consumer Law Litigation Sections of the MSBA.
On Monday, October 30, Marisa Katz co-presented a CLE at St. Thomas School of Law with Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on forced arbitration clauses. Congressman Ellison addressed last week’s vote in the Senate that rescinded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) rule that would have banned class action waivers in forced arbitration bans in consumer contracts.
Marisa discussed recent key U.S. Supreme Court cases on this topic and the Court’s continued role in shutting the courthouse doors to consumers, employees and small businesses. Both speakers discussed how to keep up the fight against forced arbitration and class action bans in the current political environment.
The presentation, “On Our Terms: Mandatory Arbitration Clauses Stopping Courts from Granting Justice,” was sponsored by University of St. Thomas School of Law’s Law Democrats.
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.
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.
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.
Vildan Teske testified in front of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senate hearing was entitled “The Federal Arbitration Act and Access to Justice: Will Recent Supreme Court Decisions Undermine the Rights of Consumers, Workers and Small Businesses?”
The hearing was chaired by Senator Al Franken, D-MN, who introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act into the Senate. Vildan testified about the impact of forced arbitration clauses and class action bans in consumer and employment contracts on the ability of consumers, servicemembers, and employees to hold wrongdoers accountable.
Vildan Teske has been asked to testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing that will explore the impact of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on the ability of consumers, servicemembers, and employees to access justice through our civil court system. Vildan is a nationally-recognized expert in representing consumers and in class actions and will bring that expertise before the U.S. Senate in an attempt to further the rights of individuals against large corporations that are trying to keep legitimate claims from being filed in the civil court system.