We have written often of the danger to consumers of unfettered corporate power.
As we close the book on 2017, the most egregious examples of abuse by corporations in America in the past year are worth examining. Here’s just a partial list:
- Wall Street’s push to repeal a rule limiting forced arbitration;
- Equifax profiting from its massive data breach;
- Monsanto ghostwriting of scientific studies;
- Takata’s cover-up of potentially lethal airbags;
- Fox News’ massive sexual harassment cover-up and payouts;
- Drug companies and distributors knowingly contributing to America’s opioid crisis.
Let’s look at a couple of these in greater detail starting with corporate America’s push to expand the use of forced arbitration. From Wall Street to your local nursing home, corporations are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to lobby the Congress to limit the ability of consumers to sue corporations that cause meaningful harm.
As a replacement for what is a fundamental right, corporate America increasingly wants consumers to use what is called forced arbitration to litigate any complaints. In forced arbitration, consumers “agree” to surrender fundamental constitutional rights, often without ever realizing it. All legal disputes are funneled into a closed (some would say secret) arbitration system where there is no right to go to court, no right to a jury, no right to a written record, no right to discovery, no legal precedents to follow, no judicial review, and often little or no control over the “arbitrator” chosen to hear a case.
What about Equifax?
Equifax is one of the largest credit reporting agencies in America. In September, the company revealed it had suffered a massive data breach that compromised the personal data (e.g., social security numbers, birthdates and more) of over half the U.S. population.
Yes – you read that correctly.
What’s more, they had been warned about the vulnerability of their data in March (’17) – almost two months before the data hack occurred. It took Equifax another two months before they discovered the breach.
So what did they do in response to the crisis?
They launched an identity theft protection product offering it to their customers as a free service in the first year. Subsequent use would cost customers $17 a month. By October 2017, over 7.5 million consumers had signed up for the free service. In a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) revealed that if just one million of those 7.5 million customers renewed (at $17 per month) or simply forgot to cancel the service, Equifax would make $200 million.
Oh – and by the way – Equifax tried to rely on a forced arbitration clause on their website to deny the constitutional rights of individuals harmed by the data breach in the first place.
And then there is the news from the chemical giant, Monsanto.
Turns out that employees of Monsanto ghostwrote scientific reports relied on by the EPA to determine whether glyphosate, a chemical used in the herbicide Roundup, was safe and did not cause cancer. Emails discussing the ghostwriting were revealed as part of a mass litigation by farmers and others claiming that Monsanto failed to warn that Roundup could cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
What does each of these examples illustrate?
How important it is to have a strong civil justice system to protect consumers and workers and hold corporations accountable for their misconduct. These examples perfectly illustrate our belief that when corporations put profits before safety and customer and employee welfare, and the regulatory system proves unable to force change, our courts are the last, best line of defense for consumers.
If you are worried about protecting your consumer rights – call your Congressman and U.S. Senators and let them know you are watching and that you care. In a democracy – activism trumps big money and powerful lobbyists most of the time. Do your part to protect your rights before it is too late.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective product, call a qualified Connecticut product liability lawyer. A knowledgeable product liability attorney can help to ensure that your rights are protected. What’s more, our product liability lawyers have received local and national recognition for our handling of cases like these.
We have a great team of legal experts dedicated to product liability cases in Connecticut. Please contact us if we can help you. The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.