Today, the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School released a brand new study, “First Class Relief: How Class Actions Benefit Those Who Are Injured, Defrauded and Violated.” The study is a compilation of more than 150 recent class actions that have been litigated and settled since 2005. It's an examination of a wide array of cases, and I mean wide: cases involved predatory and discriminatory lending, like illegal auto finance and mortgage loan mark-ups, payday loans, unlawful practices targeting Servicemembers, and Ponzi schemes. Many race and gender employment discrimination class actions. Nine antitrust class action settlements that distributed over $1 billion to tens of thousands of consumers and small and medium-sized businesses from companies who participated in criminal price-fixing cartels! Wow.
Plus car defects and repossessions, sports tickets, film and television residuals, tainted pet food, contaminated drinking water, home decks and furnace defects, nursing home deficiencies, and health insurer abuses. CJ&D found overwhelming evidence that class actions have not only helped victims of corporate law-breaking but also led to changes in corporate behavior that protect us all from many types of illegal conduct.
The study comes in the midst of a great deal of activity aimed at fighting back against the increasing use of forced arbitration clauses and class action bans in consumer and employment contracts. Alliance for Justice has released a new film about this problem, entitled “Lost in the Fine Print,” narrated by former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. And a new petition effort asking five Wall Street banks to stop using forced arbitration clauses has already gathered tens of thousands of signatures in its first week.
We always knew that class action lawsuits were among the most important tools that cheated and violated individuals and small businesses have to recover stolen money, hold large corporations and institutions accountable and deter future misconduct. At last, the evidence – all in one place!