Archive for June 21st, 2010

From the Consumer Law & Policy Blog: A divided Supreme Court today dealt a major blow to consumers and employees seeking to challenge arbitration agreements on the ground that they are unfair or unconscionable. Public Citizen was co-counsel in the case, Rent-a-Center v. Jackson, and will be spearheading efforts in Congress to curtail its effects.

In a 5-4 decision by Justice Scalia, the Court held that if a company’s arbitration agreement includes a clause delegating fairness challenges to the arbitrator, a court must enforce that agreement and send the matter to arbitration. The Court’s decision arose out of an employment discrimination claim brought by Antonio Jackson, an African-American Nevada man, against his former employer. When Mr. Jackson sued, the company invoked its arbitration agreement and claimed that, under the agreement, any challenges to the agreement had to be decided by the arbitrator.

Until today’s Supreme Court decision, consumers and employees had the right, under Section 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act, to go to court and ask a judge to find an arbitration agreement unconscionable or unfair and therefore unenforceable. Although most arbitration agreements are enforceable, court review weeded out the very worst abuses—like imposing exorbitant fees, forcing consumers or employees to travel great distances to arbitrate, or allowing a corporation to pick an arbitrator that is clearly biased in its favor.

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According to the New York Daily news, BP CEO Tony Hayward canceled his plans to speak in London at the World National Oil Companies Congress meeting on Tuesday. However BP refuses to say where he really is.  A BP spokesperson said Hayward was too busy with his “very heavy schedule of commitments” relating to the oil covered Gulf coast.

However Hayward is not on the Gulf Coast, and was just seen this weekend taking a day off to see his 52-foot yacht compete in a race off England’s shore. A BP spokesperson claimed that Hayward just wanted “to spend a day with his family.” However people, especially Gulf Coast residents, are starting to get furious with Hayward’s lackadaisical response in recent days to the disaster.

A few days ago, representatives from BP stated Tony Hayward has “been relieved of his duties day-to-day relating to the spill,” and managing director Robert Dudley has taken over Hayward’s role in responding to the disaster.

After all this, looks like Hayward is finally “getting his life back.” Too bad it will be years before the people and animals in the Gulf get their lives back.

Once again Public Citizen had a busy week making news around the country and the world. Last week, Public Citizen and Center for Responsive Politics published a report saying that at least 56 industry lobbyists have served on the personal staffs of the 43 Senate and House members who are responsible for the last part of the financial reform bill. The report was then featured in extensive amounts of media coverage from The Associated Press to local television media such as WJLA Washington DC.  The coverage of the financial reform also extended to Pacifica’s Free Speech Radio News where Robert Weissman was interviewed about the reform bill.

While Tony Hayward appeared in Washington to face congress KCRW radio asked Tyson Slocum, is Washington being tough enough on BP? Tyson was also featured in and NPR story about BP having to face possible sanctions for the oil spill disaster. CBS News mentioned Public Citizen’s call to Obama to end the nation’s business dealings with BP. The call to “debar” asked by Public Citizen was also featured in a story by Bloomberg’s Business Week. Tyson Slocum was featured in the story:

“This is a company that does not learn its lesson,” Slocum says. He says individual sanctions haven’t changed BP’s history of violating environmental and safety laws, and he thinks the government should throw the book at the company.”

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