In an American Banker op-ed, Consumers Fare Better with Arbitration, Alan Kaplinsky, Mark Levin, and Daniel McKenna, lawyers from Ballard Spahr, a leading firm representing banks and others in the consumer financial services industry, commented on the St. John’s Arbitration Study, and responded to an earlier American Banker op-ed authored by Professor Jeff Sovern. Sovern rebutted in another American Banker op-ed, Arbitration Tricks Consumers into Giving Up Their Rights. In addition, Maryland law professor Peter Holland offered his own views on the study in a blog post.
Professor Michael Perino had a column in Friday, December 12th’s New York Times titled, “The Gift of Inside Information,” which discusses and criticizes a recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. A bit:
Insider trading is perhaps our most symbolic white-collar crime. Our ban on the practice expresses our deep social commitment to equality of opportunity; it embodies that peculiarly American revulsion for any special privileges that might be thought to accrue to the wealthy or to the political and social elite. As Preet Bharara, the United States attorney who spearheaded the most recent spate of prosecutions, explained, insider trading tells everybody “that everything is rigged and only people who have a billion dollars and have access to and are best friends with people who are on the boards of directors of major companies … can make a true buck.”
Allowing executives to give away information to whomever they choose so long as they get nothing in return simply makes no sense.
The American Banker ran Professor Jeff Sovern’s op-ed, Arbitration Clauses Trap Consumers with Fine Print, on the St. John’s Arbitration Study. Professor Sovern collaborated on the study with Professors Elayne Greenberg and Paul Kirgis, and the director of St. John’s Institutional Assessment, Yuxiang Liu. The full study can be found here.
Cleveland Plain Dealer consumer affairs columnist Sheryl Harris reported on the St. John’s arbitration study in her column, Arbitration – what you don’t know about fine print can hurt you: Plain Dealing. Here is an excerpt:
Well, lawyers at St. John’s University Law School recently conducted [a study] and found that even when [consumers] know there’s an arbitration clause in a contract, they often don’t understand what it really means — even when they think they do know.
Researchers showed consumers a standard credit card contract with a binding arbitration clause and then asked them a series of questions.
- Most people didn’t realize there was an arbitration clause in the contract.
- Of the 40-odd percent who spotted the clause, almost two-thirds believed – wrongly – that if the disputed amount was too big for small claims court, they could still go to common pleas or federal court.
- Less than 9 percent both spotted the arbitration clause and correctly said it would prevent all consumers from going to [a] court [other than a small claims court] to resolve a dispute.
Remarkably, 87 percent of the 303 people who swore they’d never agreed to a contract that contained an arbitration clause were flat-out wrong
How did researchers know? They asked people if they did business with AT&T Mobility, Sprint, Verizon, PayPal or Skype – companies whose contracts routinely require consumers to agree up front that if they ever have an issue with the company, they can only resolve it through binding arbitration.
“We don’t know about the remaining 13 percent,” says law prof Jeff Sovern, one of the authors of the study. Sovern says the number of people who had unwittingly agreed to mandatory arbitration is likely higher because researchers asked consumers about contracts with those five companies, not about every company they did business with.
Professor John Q. Barrett, assisted by Barbara Gellis Traub, former Head of Reference & Instructional Services at St. John’s Rittenberg Law Library, helped draft and edit biographical information on the 154 Federal Judges who have served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and its predecessor, the U.S. District Court for the District of New York, from 1789 to the present. The Court was the nation’s first federal court and thus is nicknamed the “Mother Court.”
The judicial biographical entries are part of voluminous historical information that was distributed on thumb drives to guests at the Court’s 225th anniversary special session on November 4, 2014. This information soon will be available on the Court’s website.
The Court’s 225th anniversary will be celebrated throughout the next year, including in a series of public events and programs.
U.S. District Judges Deborah A. Batts and P. Kevin Castel ’75, Co-Chairs of the Southern District’s 225th anniversary celebration, recruited Barrett and Traub to assist with the biographies project.
Law360 quoted Professor Sovern in an article, CFPB No-Action Letters May Be Small Comfort For Innovators. As stated in the article:
Granting no-action letters could provide a major benefit for consumers, said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.
Previous attempts at financial innovations that ended up providing a real boost to consumers, like car leases and home equity loans, were caught up in confusion over whether they violated existing consumer protection and fair lending laws. Congress eventually amended the Truth In Lending Act to accommodate those products, Sovern said.
“But revising any law, including disclosure laws, takes time, and it is preferable for consumers not to have to wait,” he said. “No-action letters permit innovators to move forward more quickly.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer story, Consumers Rarely Use the Right to Cancel a Contract reports on Professor Jeff Sovern’s article, Written Notice of Cooling-Off Periods: A Forty-Year Natural Experiment in Illusory Consumer Protection and the Relative Effectiveness of Oral and Written Disclosures, forthcoming in the University of Pittsburgh Law Review. The article also quotes from an interview with Professor Sovern. The article states:
Sovern, who teaches consumer law and civil procedure at New York’s St. John’s University Law School, analyzed survey responses from 155 businesses that informed consumers of their right to cancel a deal. It rarely seemed to matter. . . .
“I’ve been teaching these laws for more than a quarter-century, and I’ve been wondering if they actually helped anybody,” [Sovern] told me last week.
For the full story, with additional quotes and discussion of Sovern’s research go to the full article.
Professor David Gregory was interviewed by Brian Williams for the September 16th broadcast of the NBC National Evening News. He was featured during the segment on the current crisis facing the National Football League.
Professor Gregory was also interviewed by The New York Times to discuss the issues facing the NFL. He was quoted in the article “In League Ruled by Fiat, Response Seen as Flailing” in the September 16th issue.
Last week, Professor Margaret “Peggy” McGuiness, Co-Director of the law school’s Center for International and Comparative Law, participated in a podcast on United States v. Bond, which is currently before the United States Supreme Court. The Court heard oral argument in Bond on November 5. Bond considers Congress’s treaty powers and competing interpretations of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. The podcast is featured on the Opinio Juris, the international law blog that Professor McGuinness co-founded with Professor Christopher Borgen.
Professor Jeff Sovern was quoted in an article on Law360, CFPB Aims To Fill Gaps With Coming Debt Collection Rules [link at http://www.law360.com/articles/486713/cfpb-aims-to-fill-gaps-with-coming-debt-collection-rules]. After noting that the existing federal statute, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, antedated the creation of text messages, email and social media, the article notes:
The statute does not take any of these modes of communication into account, and that has led to confusion about how it applies to them — as well as confusion’s sometime byproduct, litigation, said St. John’s University School of Law professor Jeff Sovern.