AFJ Applauds Senators Who Fought for Consumers’ Rights

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Carolyn Bobb

In a big win for Wall Street, the Senate voted to overturn a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule that ensured consumers could band together to sue big banks and financial firms if they were harmed.  The rule protected consumers from the secretive process of forced arbitration, in which they are almost certain to lose. The rule was overturned by the narrowest of margins – and before the vote, many Senators came to the floor to speak out in favor of saving it.  Here are some of the night’s best “quotable quotes”:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

In arbitration, the company chooses the judge. The company pays the judge, and these judges come back time and time again for case after case after case fighting for the companies time after time after time. So if you want a rigged system, if you want an example of the swamp flooding this room right here, this is it. Right here, right now.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Companies like Equifax and Wells Fargo have hurt millions of consumers, and then turn around and try to escape accountability using forced arbitration clauses. The Republican Congress hasn’t done a thing to help the people hurt by Wells Fargo. The Republican Congress hasn’t done a thing to help the people hurt by Equifax. Nope. Instead, tonight they are actually taking away one of your few legal tools to hold companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax accountable. This is shameful, and I mean that. Any Senator who votes against our service members and our veterans in order to shield big banks from accountability should be ashamed.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Earlier this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the CFPB, issued a rule to prevent certain financial services companies from forcing consumers to sign predisp ute arbitration clauses that block class action lawsuits. This might sound like a boring technical change, but it’s not. At stake is nothing less than the right of millions of Americans to be heard in a court of law.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

We ought to live in a society where consumers have a fighting chance and the system is not rigged against them. Arbitration clause is a way to rig a contract so that a consumer is going to lose twice: lose when the bank takes advantage of them, and lose when they try to go to court and they’re stopped by the arbitration clause.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

There is a reason that the big and powerful special interests want to get rid of access to the jury and want to force people to mandatory arbitrations. They’re not doing it for the sake of having their adversaries and opponents get better access to justice. They’re doing it to shut off access to the civil jury. They want to force everyone into rigged games.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

This is a very simple issue. The issue is whether or not consumers who have been wronged by big banks or other financial institutions, whether they can choose to band together with others to seek justice. And what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau did way say consumers had that right. They have the right to choose how to go about getting justice. And what this Senate resolution does is take that right away from consumers and say uh-uh, if you want to seek justice, you can only go through forced arbitration, where we know the deck is stacked against the lowly consumer and stacked in favor of the big banks and the big financial institutions. Let’s not do that.

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

So who opposed this rule and who is behind this resolution to repeal it? Corporations that want to avoid penalties in court when they abuse their customers and big financial trade industry trade associations and lobbyists. Credit card, student loan, and payday lending firms, which would see big benefits if this resolution passes. It will allow them to keep forcing consumers to sign contracts that take away their right to go into court.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)

When someone is deployed, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether their house is going to be foreclosed in or their car is going to be repossessed because they were the victim of a scam. When they are going into battle or heading out on a mission, the last thing our troops should be thinking about is how a company took advantage of the fact that they were out of the country and how there is so very little they can do about it. Unfortunately, this isn’t a hypothetical issue. Service members get taken advantage of all the time and we have seen countless times how their ability to file lawsuits holds bad actors accountable.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

They go after – These arbitration rules go after families of people in nursing homes, they go after customers that get – that sign up for things they didn’t even k now they were signing up for. They go after people whose credit has been hacked and whose credit rating has been dinged and they go after soldiers, and airmen and sailors and Coast Guard members. How will members of this body look those service members in the eye and explain that they chose to stand with Wall Street over our military members?

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

As long as I’ve been in the Senate I’ve been fighting to end forced arbitration. I’ve always said my efforts are about reopening the courtroom doors because they never should’ve been closed in the first place. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see the CFPB’s rule for exactly what it is. A commonsense way to restore transparency and accountability in our nation’s financial system, and to level the field between Wall Street and consumers.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

A vote in favor of this resolution is a vote in favor of predatory lending. It is a vote in favor of wage theft. It is a vote in favor of sexual harassment. It is a vote in favor of medical malpractice. It is a vote in favor of denying millions of Americans a fundamental right to a day in court.

Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

To sum it all up, a yes vote is handing a get it of jail free card, or the equivalent, to Wells Fargo and Equifax. It’s that simple. A yes vote is saying that you believe that Americans that get taken advantage of don’t have the right to seek recourse. A yes vote tells financial institutions that they can continue to hose consumers without consequences or accountability because we know that average folks don’t have the ability to go to court on their own and sue. We know that. Everyone knows that. So if there are abuses, let’s fix them, but don’t totally denude people who don’t have much power from the little power they might have through going to court.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)

This anti-consumer resolution strips away those victims’ constitutional first line of defense against lending fraud and permits corporations more opportunities to take advantage of consumers. We have known for years that forced arbitration clauses harm the financial security of those who are most vulnerable to lending scams. Companies slip these clauses into the fine print of contracts for everything from loan applications to purchases on a smartphone. And let’s be clear: even if every American had the time to read and understand the fine print of every contract they sign, most of these contracts by major financial institutions are one-sided and the consumer has no power to bargain the terms in the fine print.