The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Arbitration Study: A Summary and Critique
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Arbitration Study: Report to Congress 2015 does not support the case for ex ante regulation of mandatory consumer arbitration clauses. It contains no data on the typical arbitration outcome - a settlement - and it is these arbitral settlements, and not arbitral awards, that should be compared to class action settlements. It does not address the public policy question of whether, by resolving disputes more accurately on the merits, arbitration may prevent class action settlements induced solely by defendants’ incentive to avoid massive discovery costs. It shows that in arbitration consumers often get settlements or awards, are typically represented by counsel, and achieve good results even when they are unrepresented. In class action settlements, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports surprisingly high payout rates to class members and low attorneys’ fees relative to total class payout. These aggregated average numbers reflect the results in a very small number of massive class action settlements. Many class action settlements have much lower payout rates and higher attorneys’ fees.