When anecdote becomes data

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Currently, there exists a unique opportunity for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to develop and build a study that demonstrates the harms suffered by consumers under the closed door practice of forced arbitration.  That the study is happening is significant and positive sign that the CFPB recognizes that more data and inquiry into the harmful practice is needed.  For months, industry as scoffed at the prospect that the CFPB would make the study a priority since it had no deadline; thus, we can be sure that once the U.S. Chamber and its allies learn that the CFPB has begun to organize and focus on this study, they will do all that they can to try to stack the deck in their favor.    

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, was slammed in 2009 when he suggested that the plural of anecdote is data which can be extrapolated to draw larger conclusions.  This consumer advocate agrees; in a large enough plurality, one can discern clear patterns and developments upon which to base a qualitative statement about experience.  In Krugman’s case, he said: “things appeared to be improving.”  

If you have ever experienced the closed door secretive process of arbitration or have been denied the opportunity to access the courts because of arbitration, then you have an important role to play here.  Your stories and your clients stories, in plural, is data that can help to demonstrate some of the harms caused by arbitration

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Please send us your arbitration clauses – we can and have obtained general clauses from the websites of many financial institutions; however, it would be most helpful to collect and examine clauses where a dispute is involved and the cause is actually at issue.
  2. Please send us your stories and concrete experiences of how arbitration has claim suppressive effects; these can include:
    1. cases you have been involved with that could no longer be pursued because of the arbitration clause
    2. meritorious cases you did not take up because of an arbitration clause
    3. cases either dismissed or sent to arbitration
    4. class actions that have provided some injunctive relief that, post Concepcion, would have been sent to arbitration.
  3. Please send us the names of cases (with citations, etc.) decided since Concepcion that you think are demonstrative of how good class actions are not surviving the Concepcion decision.    

Please send all information you think would be useful to: LegislativeUnit@naca.net