After the Wells Fargo scandal earlier this year in which the company admitted that its bankers created millions of fraudulent accounts, Wells Fargo is once again in the public eye for its attempt to stay out of courts by forcing the customers of these fraudulent accounts into closed door arbitration agreements. When existing customers were set up with fake accounts, they were entered into a new contract that required any disputes to be handled through arbitration and out of the court room. This new contract left existing customers dealing with an agreement that they never signed. The unfairness of this situation has left many customers without the legal rights to address the issue of fraudulent accounts in the court room or through a class action. Several Democrats have expressed their concern at the unfairness of these arbitration agreements and have advocated for legislation that provides remedies to those who were forced into these binding contracts without their consent. For example, California state Senator Bill Dodd introduced a bill to “override forced-arbitration clauses in contracts created through fraud”. This type of legislation would allow law suits to be brought against companies committing fraud despite the arbitration agreements in the customer’s contracts.
An editorial by the LA Times also disagrees with Wells Fargo’s ability to force their customers into arbitration for accounts their customers did not create, especially when these arbitration agreements are usually meant to favor the business rather than the consumer. Leaders such as Representative Brad Sherman and Senator Sherrod Brown have proposed similar bills to that of Senator Dodd’s, hoping to bar banks from requiring arbitration agreements in the future. Since these arbitration agreements are an attempt by Wells Fargo to stay out of the court room and settle disputes privately, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed to prohibit banks from blocking future class action lawsuits brought on by customers. This will allow class actions to serve as a check on bank’s actions.
Similar to Wells Fargo’s practice of forcing their customers into arbitration agreements before doing business with them, some nursing homes and skilled living facilities also have their incoming patients sign into similar arbitration agreements before being admitted. These types of agreements are unfair to residents of these facilities since they are denied full legal remedies in the event that they are wrongfully treated. If their needs are not taken care of properly or they experience abuse and/or neglect residents with an arbitration agreement often find it difficult to pursue legal measures against the facilities that wronged them. These arbitration agreements create a legal barrier around these facilities, aiding them in avoiding law suits if they commit elder abuse or neglect towards their residents.