Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

July 15, 2016

The Hill Runs Sovern Op-Ed

The Hill has published Professor Jeff Sovern’s op-ed, What Can We Learn from Trump University’s Sales Scripts. Here is an excerpt:


Jeff Sovern

[I]f you listen to how Trump responds to questions, you may see parallels to the script’s instructions for answering questions about Trump University’s success rate:

“If you went to Harvard or Berkeley and asked them the success rate of their graduates, how do you think they would answer that? Their answer is the same as ours. We give every student the knowledge and tools to go out there and be successful. . . . every graduate doesn’t make the same amount of money. . . . Their number one problem is procrastination and excuses. So the success rate is based off of one variable – YOU! . . . . Average people get to a defining moment in life and think about it until it is too late. You didn’t make all these decisions to be here this weekend to be average. So come on, let’s get you a Mentor . . . .”

Never mind that information about the outcomes of many schools, including Harvard and Berkeley, is available on the web. Sales staff who followed the script did not even begin to answer the consumer’s question. But they may have managed to make listeners feel better about themselves by putting down the unidentified others—those average people!–who procrastinate and make excuses. Predatory lender scripts show a similar pattern of refusal to answer questions and redirection.

July 6, 2016

Barrett Lectures in California & Illinois




John Barrett

Professor John Q. Barrett, biographer of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, U.S. chief prosecutor at and principal architect of the 1945-1946 international Nuremberg trial of the principal Nazi war criminals, spoke last month at two notable events that commemorated those historic events of seventy years ago.

On June 9th, Professor Barrett was a principal speaker in Riverside, California, in the annual Associate Justice John G. Gabbert Historic Oral Argument and Lectures Series, organized by the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District. The program was titled “The Courage to Remember: The Holocaust & the Nuremberg Trials.” For a pre-event press release, click here.

On June 27th, Professor Barrett spoke, at a program hosted by the Jewish Federation of Springfield, Illinois, and its Cardozo Society, on Justice Jackson and Nuremberg.
Professor Barrett writes The Jackson List, which reaches over 100,000 readers around the world.

July 6, 2016

Sovern Has Op-ed in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



Jeff Sovern

Professor Jeff Sovern’s latest op-ed, Keep banks from playing tricks, appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 26. It is about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposed rule to ban class action waivers in arbitration clauses. Here is an excerpt:

* * * Affected businesses are likely to sue (in court, ironically) to try to block [the CFPB arbitration proposal]. In a move that conjures up the famous scene from “Blazing Saddles” in which Cleavon Little takes himself hostage, the financial industry has threatened to abandon consumer arbitration altogether if the regulation takes effect. Thus, the Chamber of Commerce has written of its concern that consumers who have unique $25 claims that couldn’t be heard in class actions wouldn’t be able to arbitrate them.

(Never mind that this imaginary consumer — remember, consumers rarely bring $25 claims — could presumably still sue in small claims court). But even that wouldn’t be a problem unless arbitration benefits consumers; therefore, the industry claims that it does.

Except that it doesn’t. The CFPB study found that, on average, 6.8 million consumers a year obtain relief through settlements in consumer finance-related class actions in federal court. In contrast, it reported, about 600 consumer finance disputes were filed each year with the main arbitration provider. Even if consumers filed and won 1,000 times that many arbitration proceedings a year, federal class actions would still help more than 10 times as many consumers as arbitration in a typical year. That’s why class actions can deter misconduct while arbitration doesn’t.

June 17, 2016

Salomone presents at Université Catholique de l’Ouest in France

On May 27th, Professor Rosemary Salomone presented a paper on “Heritage Languages and Educational Equality in the Global Knowledge Economy” at an international symposium on “Politiques Linguistiques Familiales et Processus de Transmissions Intergénérationnelles en Contexte Migratoire” hosted by the Université Catholique de l’Ouest in Angers, France. The following is an abstract:


Rosemary Salomone

This paper examines the wavering history of language rights in the United States for students whose home language is other than English. It gives particular attention to the Supreme Court’s decision in Lau v. Nichols (1974) and related federal laws and regulations. It looks specifically at students from immigrant or refugee families who are English dominant but have limited conversational skills in their “heritage” language. It maintains that while families with sufficient economic means and/or community support preserve their language and culture by enrolling their children in after-school and weekend language and culture classes or through dual language immersion programs in the public schools, the same advantages are not available to many less privileged students whose potential for bilingualism and biculturalism remains unrealized. It presents data on the increasing demand for multilingual skills in the job market as well as empirical findings on the cognitive and social benefits of bilingualism, which further underscore the resulting inequities. For these students developing academic proficiency and literacy in their “mother” tongue is not a mere enrichment activity that schools can set aside in the face of competing demands for accountability as measured by standardized test scores in English. It is rather critical in the global knowledge economy to providing a “meaningful,” “effective,” and “appropriate” education as guaranteed in federal law. The paper closes with a brief discussion of current developments, including state “Seals of Biliteracy” and a congressionally supported Commission on Language Learning, that suggest national recognition of the country’s language deficit and a hopeful commitment to addressing the rights of heritage language learners.

June 16, 2016

Lazaro quoted in On Wall Street about new FINRA CEO

Professor Lazaro was quoted in the On Wall Street article, Christine LazaroNew FINRA CEO will face thorny issues and rising criticism,” about FINRA’s newly named CEO, Robert Cook, and the issues he can expect to face when he takes over the brokerage industry regulator:

Christine Lazaro, director of the Securities Arbitration Clinic at St. John’s University School of Law, says preventing elder financial abuse has become an ever more important issue as more baby boomers enter retirement.

Under Ketchum, FINRA has made moves to buttress protections for older clients. Last year, the regulator launched a helpline that it says received more than 4,600 calls so far .

Lazaro also points to growing concerns about cybersecurity. In recent years, there have been high profile data breaches at firms like J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.

“There is a tremendous amount of confidential customer information at the firms,” she says.

There’s also a question as to what role does FINRA have in the ongoing debate over an industrywide fiduciary standard. The Department of Labor’s contentious rule, finalized in April, faces several lawsuits launched by industry trade groups. Meanwhile, the SEC, which is charged with creating a fiduciary rule under the Dodd-Frank Act, says it won’t finalize its own rule-making before Obama leaves office.

Lazaro says FINRA has an opportunity to set expectations for firms.

“The place for FINRA to act is really in terms of how it expects its member firms to manage conflicts of interest, in other words acting in the best interest of customers,” she says. “FINRA has long said it expects firms to act in the best interest of customers, but the question is how do you define best interest?”

June 16, 2016

Barrett Delivers Kanee Lecture in Western Canada

On May 16th, Professor John Q. Barrett delivered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the 11th annual Sol & Florence Kanee Distinguished Speaker Series lecture, hosted by the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. The previous Kanee Lecturers include Sir Martin Gilbert, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, Professor Shlomo Avineri, Ambassador Dore Gold, and Justice Albie Sachs. Professor Barrett’s lecture was entitled “Seventy Years Since Nuremberg: Proof of Nazi Crimes, The Birth of Modern Human Rights Law.” For a local press report, click here


John Q. Barrett


May 24, 2016

Sovern Speaks at Teaching Consumer Law Conference

Professor Jeff Sovern spoke at the University of Houston’s Teaching Consumer Law Sovern Two[2]Conference (held in Santa Fe) on May 20. His topic was “Are FDCPA Validation Notices Valid?” and he spoke about the study he and Psychology Associate Professor Kate Walton are conducting, funded by the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Endowment for Education.

In addition, Professor Sovern was quoted by Law360 on May 5 in an article titled “Battle Over CFPB’s Data Looms In Arbitration War.” According to the article:

“The bureau has been meticulous about relying on its research findings, and I respect the fact that they felt they needed to know more before going further,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at the St. John’s University School of Law and a critic of the arbitration clauses. “It will be interesting to see what the data they will collect shows.”

He was also quoted in an April 28 story on headlined “Chase Now Offering Its Customers Deals on Jaguars.”

May 18, 2016

Lazaro Participates on Panel on DOL’s New Fiduciary Duty Rule

On May 17th, Professor Christine Lazaro participated on a panel hosted by CJM WealthChristine Lazaro Management and the Association of Certified Chief Financial Officers. The panel discussed the Department of Labor’s recently adopted rule which imposes a fiduciary duty on those who provide certain types of investment advice to retirement investors. In addition to Professor Lazaro, the panel included Ary Rosenbaum, an ERISA attorney, Suzanne Breit, a CPA, and Ronald K. Stair, an actuary. The audience included Chief Financial Officers and retirement plan administrators. 

April 25, 2016

Salomone Presents at UN Symposium on Language and Sustainable Goals

On April 21st, Professor Rosemary Salomone presented a paper on “Educational Equity,


Rosemary Salomone

Sustainable Development Goals, and the Commodification of English in the Global Economy” at the Symposium on Language and Sustainable Goals sponsored by the Study Group on Language at the United Nations in cooperation with the Centre for Research and the Documentation on World Language Problems. The abstract of the presentation is as follows:

As English increasingly becomes the dominant lingua franca worldwide, it presents opportunities, challenges, and threats to primary and secondary education. Now widely used among non-native speakers who share neither a common language nor culture, English is no longer a language for ethnic or national identification as languages are conventionally considered. It is an economic skill, a marketable commodity, and a form of cultural capital. At the same time, neo-liberal approaches focusing on competition, efficiency, and accountability have likewise promoted the marketability of education itself. This paper examines the confluence of these forces as they relate to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on “quality education” (4), “decent work and economic growth” (8), and “reduced inequalities” (10).  It maintains that the interplay between language and education is key to the success of development efforts to eradicate economic and social inequalities especially in emerging economies. To support that proposition, it focuses on select countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, all struggling with the implications of the “rise of English” for language policies in schooling. In the end, it concludes that both inequitable access to quality instruction in English and the widespread provision of primary education in a language that children do not understand are together denying equal rights to educational opportunity to millions of children while overlooking the value of indigenous languages as vehicles for building regional and rural economies.

April 11, 2016

Sheff Invited to Research Japanese Trademark System

Jeremy Sheff

Jeremy Sheff

Professor Jeremy Sheff has been named an “Invited Researcher” by the Institute of Intellectual Property in Tokyo, Japan. Under an agreement with the Japan Patent Office, each year IIP invites a small number of foreign researchers to come to Tokyo to study Japan’s industrial property system.  (Past researchers can be found here.)  Professor Sheff will spend several weeks in Tokyo this summer doing empirical research into Japan’s trademark registration system.


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