Articles Posted in Class Actions

By Oren Giskan, Esq.

Have you been following the FINRA v Charles Schwab (“Schwab”) battle? Schwab is a stock brokerage that recently inserted a ban on class actions in its customer agreement. FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc., who regulates brokerages such as Schwab didn’t like it so it sued Schwab.

The Hearing Panel, which is part of FINRA, sided with Schwab and upheld the ban on class actions. This means that Schwab customers cannot band together in a class action and seek redress for any unlawful or deceptive practices that Schwab may engage in. (Keep in mind that Schwab was caught once before and paid over $200 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging it marketed risky securities as conservative investments.) In other words, Schwab customers must individually take on Schwab no matter how many Schwab customers are affected by the same practice.

By Oren Giskan, Esq.

As we know, most companies now force their customers and/or their employees to arbitration through mandatory arbitration provisions in their contracts, whether it be an employment contract or the tiny print on the back of an invoice.

Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc. (or “JAMS”) is the largest private alternative dispute provider in the world and is often named in contracts as the tribunal where your claim must be heard rather than being permitted to file in court. According to proponents of mandatory arbitration, arbitration is far more efficient and less costly than litigating before a judge.

by Catherine Anderson, Esq.

From now until February 15, 2013, consumers may opt-out of the Arbitration Provision of the American Express credit card agreement. Consumers who opt-out of arbitration will be able to bring claims and disputes in court, on an individual or class basis, against American Express. Consumers who do not opt-out will lose valuable rights, such as “the right to litigate …claim[s] in court or have a jury trial on that claim” and “the right to participate in a representative capacity or as a member of any class pertaining to any claim.”

Why opt out of arbitration? Statistics from Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, show that the corporate clients, not consumers, are routinely the predominant winners in arbitration. Moreover, the class action device is one of the most important tools consumers have against large companies. While an individual consumer claim is often for a modest sum, when aggregated among similarly situated consumers, the amount in controversy sky rockets. The American Express Arbitration Provision eliminates the corporate risk of class action liability. By opting out of arbitration, consumers can preserve the vital class action device and their right to trial by jury.

By Oren Giskan

A good decision out of the Seventh Circuit, Butler v. Sears Roebuck Inc., 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 23284 (7th Cir. November 13, 2012) makes quick work of two common arguments against class actions. The Butler case involves what plaintiff alleges is a mold problem in front loading washing machines sold by Sears.

First, defendants always argue against class certification. But Judge Posner doesn’t think this makes sense: