February 15, 2018

Sovern Speaks at Rutgers, Writes Widely-Reproduced Op-ed

Professor Jeff Sovern presented his paper, Validation and Verification Vignettes: More Results from an Empirical Study of Consumer Understanding of Debt Collection Validation Notices, at the Rutgers Law School Center for Corporate Law and Governance Workshop on Consumer Financial Protection Law on February 2.

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Jeff Sovern

On February 8, The Conversation published Sovern’s essay, “Consumers are biggest losers of Trump’s ongoing war on regulations.” The essay was republished in the online versions of the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, UPI, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and a variety of other publichations.  Sovern wrote, in part:

President Donald Trump has been waging a war on regulation since he got into office on the ground that gov​ernment red tape costs the economy billions of dollars a year.

Among the victors in this battle have been energy companies, banks and the president himself, who recently promised he’s “just getting started.” Perhaps the biggest losers, however, have been consumers.

The best illustration of this is the neutering of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which began immediately after Mick Mulvaney stepped in as interim director in November.

* * *

[W]hat has Mulvaney actually done since taking over?
While he pledged to be vigorous and consistent in enforcement of federal consumer financial law, he has also said that the bureau should bring cases reluctantly. As such, you might wonder how many he is actually filing.

The answer would be none.

The bureau has instead dropped a case, without explanation, against a group of payday lenders that charged consumers as much as 950 percent interest a year.

* * *
For the next five months – or until the Senate confirms a permanent director – the CFPB is led by someone who once called it a “sad, sick” joke.

What is sad and sick, in my view, is that an agency established to protect consumers may be more eager to protect predatory lenders than consumers. And that is no joke.

February 14, 2018

Salomone Posts Commentary in University World News

Professor Rosemary Salomone’s Commentary, “Italian Court Pushes Back on the Race Towards English,” appeared in the February 3rd issue of University World News.

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Rosemary Salomone

Professor Salomone examines the decision of Italy’s Consiglio di Stato (high administrative court) striking down the decision of Milan’s prestigious Polytechnic Institute in 2012 to offer all graduate programs in English beginning in 2014. Professor Salomone has been commenting on the case as it has worked its way through the Italian courts over the past five years. She now maintains that the several opinions that have emerged from the Italian administrative courts and the Constitutional Court together provide a well-developed framework for other European countries to consider as they weigh what is gained and what is lost and how to mitigate the harms as universities use English as a vehicle for internationalization to remain competitive in the global economy.

 

January 26, 2018

Sovern Interviewed on Sirius XM, Quoted in Law360, Bloomberg, Elsewhere

On Saturday, January 13, Sirius XM’s Insights channel ran a 15-minute interview with Professor Jeff Sovern on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sovern spoke on The Briefing Powered by Dartmouth about the CFPB’s origins, accomplishments, and future.

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Jeff Sovern

Law360 quoted Sovern in a pair of articles. A January 17 article headlined “Mulvaney Opens Review That Could Declaw CFPB” explained:

“The other issue with making the CID process the first item up for comment is that the public does not really understand the issue in a way that would allow them to comment,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

“The industry, however, has strong opinions about the process,” he said.

“Starting with CIDs makes it look like he’s trying to protect financial institutions,” Sovern said.

And an article published November 27, titled “CFPB’s Temporary Leadership Hinges On Judge’s Analysis” included the following:

“In order for Judge Kelly to rule in English’s favor, he is going to have to determine that language in the Dodd-Frank Act that establishes the line of succession at the CFPB should the director be ‘absent’ or ‘unavailable’ preempts the Federal Vacancies Reform Act,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

“As for the definitions of ‘absence’ and ‘unavailable,’ within the meaning of the Dodd-Frank Act, I think those are a key part of English’s argument. If she can’t show the director is absent or unavailable, it is hard to see how she wins,” he said.

Bloomberg Law also quoted Sovern in a November story headlined “CFPB Leadership Lawsuit May Be Headed to Appeals Court”:

Jeff Sovern, Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law in New York City, sees the case differently. Even if the administration is correct that the Vacancies Act applies to the CFPB, it shouldn’t take precedence over Dodd-Frank unless it wasn’t possible to put the Dodd-Frank succession provisions to work. For example, if the CFPB didn’t have a deputy director as envisioned by the Dodd-Frank provisions, the Vacancies Act might then kick in. But not before, he told Bloomberg Law.

“In my view, if the Vacancies Act applies at all, it does so only if the Dodd-Frank provision could not operate because, for example, there is no deputy director, as could easily have been the case if former Director Cordray had not named English to that position last week,” Sovern said.

Big if True also quoted Sovern and cited one of his articles, in a January 16 report:

“The concern I have is that the swamp might be swallowing the bureau up. I just hope that’s not true,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor of law who specializes in consumer issues at St. John’s University.

* * *
Although conservatives frequently claim that the free market is sufficient to hold industry accountable, St. John’s law professor Sovern argued in this paper that the free market is ill equipped to protect consumers who have incomplete information. He also pointed out that Wells Fargo’s number of checking accounts increased despite publicity of its fraudulent accounts, suggesting the free market didn’t actually discipline the bank.

“So, the free market works very well for things consumers can understand and make a choice as to what’s best for them,” Sovern said. “But for things where consumers don’t get a choice or don’t understand their choice, … the free market works less well, and we need a substitute. One possible substitute is regulation.”

 

January 25, 2018

Salomone Comments on Recent Ruling by South African Constitutional Court

Professor Rosemary Salomone’s Commentary, “Court Ruling Misses the Mark on Language Rights,” has been published in the January 19, 2008 issue of University World News. Professor Salomone examines the recent ruling by the South African Constitutional Court in the case against the University of the Free State, an historically Afrikaans institution.

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Rosemary Salomone

The Court denied the claimants leave to appeal and upheld the university’s decision to phase out its parallel classes in English and Afrikaans and transition to a primarily English program to relieve racial tensions. She sets the discussion against the backdrop of the country’s dark history of apartheid and discusses the ruling in the context of the constitutional right of students to receive instruction in the “official language of their choice” within the limits of “practicability,” equity,” and “redress.” She specifically critiques the majority opinion for reducing the interests to a black/white racial binary and for taking the university’s justifications at face value without a sufficiently robust hearing. She argues that in the end the English classes could reinforce inequities and pose additional obstacles for the numerous less privileged coloured (mixed race) Afrikaans-speaking students, a group also marginalized under apartheid, who are the products of under-resourced rural schools where English is poorly taught. She suggests that universities consider alternative strategies to promote racial integration while protecting the rights of all students to learn in the language of their choice. This decision could have profound implications for several university cases now working their way through the lower courts and for rising litigation against Afrikaans primary and secondary schools.

December 22, 2017

Wade Presents at Michigan, Wharton, Loyola-Chicago, and the New York City Symposium on the State of Diversity and Inclusion

Earlier this year Professor Cheryl L. Wade participated on the plenary panel of the Lutie Lytle Black Women Law Faculty Conference at the University of Michigan. The panel entitled “The New Legal and Political Landscape – Academia and Social Justice” opened the conference.

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Cheryl Wade

Also earlier in the year, Professor Wade co-taught a session on “Enhancing Professional Conduct in the Financial Services Industry” sponsored by FINRA’s Institute for Executive Education at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

In October, Professor Wade presented a paper on shareholder activists’ impact on corporate diversity efforts at a symposium on Corporate Ethics and Compliance in the Era of Re-Deregulation sponsored by The Institute for Law and Economic Policy and Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s Institute for Investor Protection.

In November, Professor Wade presented her article entitled Corporate Lawyers and Diversity Discourse, published in the Journal of The Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession at the New York City Symposium on the State of Diversity and Inclusion. The Symposium takes place annually and gathers diversity and inclusion professionals from corporations across the nation. The 2017 symposium at which Professor Wade presented was sponsored by and took place at the offices of Morgan Stanley.

Also in November, Professor Wade collaborated with a group of economists, bankers, commercial law judges, lawyers and actors on a project about financial sector regulation. After participating in a year-long effort to create a production that presented, explained, and explored pertinent issues in the aftermath of the 2009 economic downturn by using the arts, Professor Wade travelled with the group and participated in the performance and presentation of their collaboration. The project was funded by a grant received by the Peter Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia and included participants from UBC and Oxford University. Professor Wade participated in presentations at Oxford University, The Inns of Court in London, The University of British Columbia, and at The Symphony Space Theater in New York City.

Professor Wade will participate on a panel on The Personification of the Corporation at the 2018 American Association of Law Schools’ Annual Conference in January.

December 6, 2017

Krishnakumar’s Book Review to be Published in Yale Law Journal

Professor Anita S. Krishnakumar has written a review of Josh Chafetz’s new book, Congress’s Constitution:  Legislative Authority and the Separation of Powers (Yale University Press, 2017).  cropped-webpage-i

The review, titled “How Long is History’s Shadow?”, will be published in the Yale Law Journal.  Here is the abstract:

In Congress’s Constitution, Professor Josh Chafetz takes issue with those who have questioned the value of Congress in recent years, arguing that such critics focus too heavily on Congress’s legislative function and ignore several important nonlegislative powers that enable Congress to exert significant authority vis-à-vis the other branches. Chafetz engages in close historical examination of these nonlegislative powers and notes that in some cases Congress has ceased exercising them as robustly as it once did, while in others it has unwittingly ceded its powers to another branch. Congress’s Constitution urges Congress to reassert several of its ceded powers more aggressively going forward, in order to recapture some of the authority and influence it has lost over time.

While admiring Chafetz’s project—and sharing in his nostalgia for some of Congress’s lost powers—this Review questions Congress’s ability and inclination to rehabilitate its underused powers in the manner Chafetz advocates. At least some of the powers Chafetz seeks to revive read like ancient history—the record of an era of legislative governance that has long since passed and that subsequent political and legal events have transformed—perhaps irreversibly. Further, Chafetz may be underestimating how some important dynamics, such as partisanship, could make Congress itself less likely to want to exercise its powers and could make the public unlikely to accept modern congressional attempts to aggressively exercise powers that have lain dormant for decades. More fundamentally, the present-day Congress may not have the integrity as an institution to look past what it “wants in the moment” in order to take steps that will benefit it as an institution—and it may not care as much about preserving its own traditions and history as Chafetz does.

In the end, the Review suggests that while reinvigorating Congress’s underappreciated powers may be a good idea in theory, in practice it may prove more challenging than Chafetz recognizes.

December 5, 2017

Levine Presents at Wake Forest and University of Washington Law Schools

Professor Kate Levine was invited to present her work-in-progress, Discipline and Policing, at two faculty workshops this Fall.  levine

On October 5, 2017, she presented to the Wake Forest University Law School faculty, and on November 9, 2017, she presented to the University of Washington School of Law faculty. The paper has also been selected for the American Constitution Society’s, Junior Scholars Public Law Workshop, held at the AALS 2018 meeting in San Diego, CA, on January 4, 2018.

Discipline and Policing examines police disciplinary records (PDRs). These records are part of an officer’s personnel file and contain reported wrongdoing from sources such as supervisors, Internal Affairs Bureau investigations, and Community Complaint Review Boards. Professor Levine’s article argues that a current movement, led mostly by civil rights groups, to make PDRs public is problematic on a number of levels. The paper first shows how prevalent the notion of transparency has become in police reform scholarship and policymaking. It questions the efficacy and long-term benefits of the “transparency cure” for policing problems generally, and then does so specifically for PDRs. Advocates of PDR transparency hope that making records public will ramp up discipline of bad officers, reform police departments, and make communities safer. The paper argues that these hopes are in vain, and that, in fact, there is a real concern that police departments will retrench if forced to make discipline more public. The paper then shows how similar arguments in favor of making PDR’s public are to arguments deployed successfully by those who wished to make criminal records public — a reality that has been lamented and critiqued by scholars for decades. Finally, the paper shows that many of the problems inherent in making criminal record public: inaccuracy, arbitrariness, overdermination, and racial injustice, are just as problematic for PDRs, which emerge from a system comparable in its confusion and byzantine nature to the criminal justice system. Thus, the arguments scholars have made for decades about criminal record publication should be considered when it comes to PDR publication. And, the language which police groups use to defend their rights can and should be leveraged to argue for a tamping down of harshness toward criminal defendants. This paper builds on a series of articles arguing that the trend toward harshness for police who are accused of wrongdoing legitimates the harshness with which criminal defendants are treated.

November 19, 2017

Barrett Lectures at U.S. Supreme Court

On November 1st, Professor John Q. Barrett delivered one of the Supreme Court Historical Society’s 2017 Leon Silverman Lectures, in the courtroom at the Supreme Court of the United States.  jqb photo

His lecture topic was “Attorney General Robert H. Jackson and President Franklin Roosevelt.”

Chief Justice of the U.S. John G. Roberts, Jr., introduced Professor Barrett’s lecture. For a SCOTUSblog report on the event, click here:

The program was filmed and will be broadcast on C-SPAN, and Professor Barrett’s lecture will be published next year in the Journal of Supreme Court History.

November 18, 2017

Sovern Interviewed on CBS Radio and Quoted by The Intercept on the CFPB and Arbitration

KCBS radio interviewed Professor Jeff Sovern on October 25 on the Senate’s vote to block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration rule.

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Jeff Sovern

Anchorwoman Rebecca Corral​ described Sovern as an “expert in consumer protection.” In addition, The Intercept, in partnership with The Investigative Fund, quoted Sovern in an article titled “No Protection for Protectors” on attacks on the CFPB. According to the article:

The clash has grown only more intense since Trump’s election. Now most regulatory agencies are in the hands of Trump loyalists or former players in the financial industry. For the past five months, only the CFPB, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Fed were still run by Obama appointees. “It’s the nail that sticks up that gets pounded,” said Jeff Sovern, a consumer law professor at St. John’s University in New York.

November 17, 2017

Professor Goldweber Received Outstanding Advocate Award

Professor Goldweber received the Outstanding Advocate Award from the Queensboro Council for Social Welfare at its annual Salute to Community Leaders Luncheon on November 3, 2017.  goldweber

The Queensboro Council provides services and referrals for older adults living in Queens. Professor Goldweber has collaborated with the Council for several years and has provided trainings on foreclosure and financial abuse issues to its social workers. The Council has also referred numerous cases to the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic. Other honorees included State Commissioner of Mental Health, Dr. Ann Marie Sullivan, and Assemblyperson David Weprin.

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