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Yesterday evening I met with a financial advisor from a large financial company. The meeting was going well and I was ready to sign on for much-needed financial advice until we started discussing the agreement.

First, he told me that the agreement was not a contract. I quickly corrected him and explained that they were one and the same. Then I started flipping through the three-page document. Lo and behold, there it was, in bold: an arbitration clause AND a statement claiming that there is no agreement to enter into any class action arbitration.

I explained to him in my excitable way that I wouldn’t sign the document, explained to him what the arbitration clause meant and its impact on consumers. He was shocked. In a very brief moment he removed the professional mask and showed that he was appalled by the provision’s meaning. I told him about the need to support the Arbitration Fairness Act in Congress. He asked if it would eliminate arbitration. I explained that it wouldn’t – but it would make it voluntary, rather than forced. (more…)

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In 2007, John Perz (whose story has been covered by Consumer Reports, and who tells his own story here) bought a used car from a local lot in San Diego. The car had a rattle, but the salesman promised Perz that if he made an appointment, the rattle would be fixed free of charge. When he brought the car back the next week, however, the mechanic told him that not only could the car not be fixed, but the 48 hour return window had already passed, meaning Perz was stuck with a car that rattled and rolled. He had the car inspected and learned that the certified vehicle he purchased had substantial water damage, possibly from a flood, and had previously been wrecked.

However, when purchasing the car, Perz signed the dealer’s arbitration agreement, meaning that despite hiring a lawyer his case would never reach a judge. Despite being advertised as faster than litigation, after three years his case is still in arbitration. Now he’s up against an arbitrator whose record against consumers is abysmal.

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety produced this video detailing Jon Perz’s fight against the dealer and against arbitration. Check it out!

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The House financial reform battle has been nothing if not brutal. Can you join the fight for the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173)? The bill goes to a vote on the House floor tomorrow, and we need you to turn up the pressure on your representatives.

Here is an update on amendments that your representative needs to know you support, and those that need to be defeated.

  • SUPPORT the Stupak/DeLauro/Larson/Van Hollen amendment on derivatives. Regulators must have the authority to ban abusive derivatives instruments rather than simply reporting them to Congress, and transactions which violate the law should be considered invalid.
  • OPPOSE the Minnick amendment to eliminate a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) from the bill. It would leave enforcement of consumer protection and civil rights laws in the hands of the same existing regulatory bodies that resoundingly failed to use them.
  • OPPOSE the Marshall amendment, which would deny financial whistleblowers the right to hold their employer accountable in court when they are retaliated against.

Call or email your representative today. You can also show your support by signing the petition at Change.org . With enough signatures, the message about the need for a Consumer Financial Protection agency will be blasted to thousands more activists. We need to stand firm against predatory banking practices and prevent financial crises from crippling our economy ever again.

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The following letter was published Thursday, October 29, in the Washington Post. Stand up to Halliburton, and sign our petition!

In her Oct. 25 column, Kathleen Parker defended the 30 GOP senators who opposed Al Franken’s amendment to the defense appropriations bill. The amendment would restore access to justice for individuals who are sexually assaulted or harassed while working for defense contractors. Under current law, many defense contractors can use the fine print of employment contracts to strip employees of the right to go to court — even if the employees are assaulted by co-workers in a lawless environment permitted by the employer.

Ms. Parker first argues that contractors might not know what is in their subcontractors’ employment contracts. But that problem is easily solved — by requiring disclosure of the contracts.

Ms. Parker then argues that Congress should prohibit binding arbitration for criminal cases. We could hardly agree more, which is why we support the Arbitration Fairness Act, a bill that would end binding arbitration for all employees and consumers. At the same time, we also urge Congress to pass Mr. Franken’s amendment. That the amendment makes needed progress without ending forced arbitration for every American is no reason to oppose it.

David Arkush, Washington
The writer is director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.

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Thanks to help from activists like you, lawmakers passed Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) amendment to bar defense contractors from forcing employees with sexual assault and discrimination claims into arbitration. But now, as the House and Senate negotiate a final version of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (DOD Appropriations bill, H.R. 3326), Senate leaders are considering weakening the amendment by leaving discrimination victims unprotected.

A man crawling across an endless field of contracts toward the scales of justice far in the distance,
Call Sen. Reid today!

Stand up to corporate defense contractors on behalf of victims of discrimination and assault! Call Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) TODAY and tell him the final DOD Appropriations bill MUST include the Franken Amendment, S.A. 2588.

No one — especially a victim of a heinous, violent crime — should be denied access to a judge and jury because of a binding mandatory arbitration clause in a contract. Please help ensure that this important amendment is passed and this abuse of power by government defense contractors ends.

Call Sen. Reid today and tell him not to strip out or water down the Franken Amendment! You’ll find instructions and talking points on our Web site. Please don’t forget to let us know what you hear!

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jonstewart

Jon Stewart, America’s most trusted newsman, points out the rampant hypocrisy of the thirty senators who voted against Senator Franken’s amendment prohibiting the use of any Federal funds to any contractor that “requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses.” Check out the video, after the jump (hat tip: HuffPo)

Cross-posted from Fair Arbitration Now.

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Sen. Al Franken, the new patron saint of fair arbitration, tore into an arbitration apologist Wednesday, administering a beating that one would more expect to see in a boxing ring than a committee hearing room. If you don’t believe me, watch for yourself.

Poor Mark de Bernardo, a partner at corporate-side employment law firm Jackson Lewis LLP, was on the receiving end, Franken poked holes in everything from de Bernardo’s underlying argument, to his command of the “facts” he cited, to the accuracy of the footnotes in his written statement. Watch the video and count how many times the senator cuts off de Bernardo’s equivocation with variations on the theme of, “Please answer yes or no, sir.”

Franken didn’t spend the whole afternoon on the offensive, however. He began his time by thanking Jamie Leigh Jones for her “courage,” “persistence,” and “strength.” As we reported last week, Jones may finally get her day in court – for some of her claims – four years after she was raped and nearly two-and-a-half years after she first filed suit. We wish her best of luck with her case.

Meanwhile, there’s been more press coverage of the Franken Amendment we mentioned last week. In the mainstream press, ABC and the AP wrote on the bill, which passed the Senate by the comfy margin of 68-30. The blogosphere noticed it as well, with stories appearing in the Huffington Post, Think Progress, and Consumerist. The thirty “nay” votes triggered a fair amount of snark, with Kos headlining “GOP backs corporate rape” and Wonkette doing what they do best.

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