Legal, Laws, and Regs

National Arbitration Forum: Above the law

I had hoped to be finished with the book by now, and also have resolved the issue I’ve had with the National Arbitration Forum, which euphemistically calls itself “The FORUM”.

Unfortunately the book isn’t finished, but should be next week. I wish I could say the same with NAF, but they have, despite the fact that I’ve shown that no arbitration agreement exists between me and the claimant and the claimant actually committed perjury–as demonstrated in the papers the claimant filed–the arbitrator, Robert Angstead a lawyer in Jefferson City, ruled in favor of the claimant for an amount beyond what the claimant asked: over 40,000 dollars. I’m assuming the many thousands more was the costs that NAF tacked on for their ‘affordable’ arbitration process. It doesn’t represent what the claimant actually paid for this process: yet another way to make a buck.

How arbitration works, as established by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and supported by decisions in the Supreme Court, as well as state law and local court decisions, is that an arbitration agreement is like a written contract. Though the arbitrator rules on the overall contract, the arbitration agreement itself is severable from the contract and its validity is decided in a court of law. In other words, the courts decide on the substantive elements of the arbitration agreement, while the arbitrator can rule on the procedural elements (the arbitration procedure).

In this case, there wasn’t even a contract, much less an arbitration agreement between me and the claimant. The company who filed the claim provided an arbitration clause, copied, word for word, from the suggested wording provided by the National Arbitration Forum. In addition, the company wasn’t even an original party to the so-called agreement. When I asked them to show a full arbitration agreement between me and the original company, as well as some proof that they had a right to claim it for themselves, they provided a copy of an agreement that was a) for a different company and b) had grossly different wording from the original clause, and c) didn’t even name NAF as the arbitration company.

When I asked it to provide proof that it had inherited this agreement, they provided a document that not only did not provide this proof, it contradicted their original claim, signed under threat of perjury. Oh, and I believe that the signature on the original claim was a copy made from a signature of a person who is no longer even with the company. So much for the wording about ‘personally reviewing’ the claim under threat of perjury.

I pointed out to NAF that the company had not only committed perjury, it also hadn’t filed the proper papers in violation of NAF’s own procedure–deliberating excluding all of the wording about my rights to discovery during the process–and that the point was moot anyway, because I disputed the existence of the arbitration agreement and it was then up to the courts to decide if one existed.

NAF, though, which operates under a pseudo legal immunity, doesn’t feel that it needs to support a) the law, or b) it’s own procedures. If it did follow the law, or its own procedures, or even gave more than a cursory glance to the evidence, it risked antagonizing a company that files hundreds, thousands of these claims and is worth a whole lot more money than I am. Yes, wasn’t arbitration supposed to be between parties on equal footing? You don’t seriously believe that, do you?

NAF continued with the arbitration procedure, and not only did the arbitrator rule against me, he and the company actually wrote a falsehood in the ruling: making statements that were not true, and which I have proof were not true. They definitely did not, according to the award, follow the “substantive law” in this decision.

What does this have to do with any of you?

Do you have a credit card? You have an arbitration agreement with the company who issued it. Signed a mortgage? Ditto the bank or mortgage company. Had a home built? Bought a car. Yup, car company agreement. Got treated at the doctor’s? Notice that fine print about the arbitration clause? Bought a computer online? You should hear the Dell computer buyers who got screwed because of the arbitration agreement Dell uses. So does Gateway. Most companies that provide online purchases of larger equipment now have arbitration clauses hidden somewhere in their sites. You buy, you arbitrate.

Have a phone? Guess what. How about cable?

Had your identity stolen and charges rang up in your name? Think you’re protected by law? Think again: companies have used arbitration to attempt to collect debts incurred through the use of a stolen identity. That’s one for the OpenID folks, eh?

If you take a new job now, check the employee agreement: there’s a very good chance you’ll find an arbitration clause. If you end up being discriminated against because of disability or sex, you won’t be able to have your day in court. No, you’ll be at NAF’s or AAA’s or JAMs tender mercies. Tell me: how much are you worth? I bet not as much as your employer.

Did you know that arbitration even trumps civil rights and the work of the Equal Opportunity Commission? From the article just linked:

“Thanks to mandatory arbitration, the securities industry is still a field dominated by white men,” Ireland said. “Women and people of color are forced to work in offices where managers have little fear of, or respect for, civil rights laws because they are essentially immune.”

Many of these arbitration agreements are to prevent or circumvent class action lawsuits. What this means is if a car company puts out a defective car and people get hurt and killed because of it, they, or their relatives, can’t file a class action lawsuit against the car company. They have to take it to arbitration. Companies like NAF who do not follow the law, and don’t even make a pretense of doing so.

How many times in a consumer arbitration case does the consumer win, rather than the corporation? I’d have to look up my figures again, but I believe it is less than 2% of the time.

I will, of course, file a motion to vacate this award. Even in this state which favors arbitration, I should be able to get this award vacated–there absolutely no support for this decision, or the fact that they continued with arbitration in violation of the law. I also plan on suing the company that initiated this process because they’ve committed fraud in their arbitration filing. But I really want to take on NAF. Why? Because no one, and no company, no organization, is above the law in this land. Since NAF attends conferences specifically to recruit companies such as the one that filed the complaint against me, and these companies invariably win with NAF operating in complete impunity with its quasi-judicial legal immunity, I believe this demonstrates that NAF is complicit in this fraudulent effort to bypass my legal protections. They certainly didn’t follow the law as they market on their site.

Luckily I can file suit against NAF and the other company in Missouri rather than NAF’s own home state of Minnesota, as NAF just hired the wife of the governor of Minnesota, Mary Pawlenty as the company’s chief counsel. Talk about getting the politicians on your side.

Arbitration: The way for equal parties to resolve their differences in a civilized manner. And it’s affordable, too. Yeah, right, and if you believe that, have I got a credit card company for you.

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