We try hard to keep politics out of this blog. Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, claim no affiliation or belong to another party, most of us agree that fraud, greed and corruption is bad. As a leading plaintiff’s law firm, we have successfully prosecuted False Claims Act whistleblower cases under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Sure, there have been bumps along the way. Each administration seems to have its own way of doing things.
Today, however, things are different. Our rights may no longer be safe.
This week the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation and Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act of 2017 Act. (Don’t be intimidated by the long name, most people simply say Fairness in Class Actions Act or call the legislation by its bill number, HR 985.)
Despite the bill’s warm and fuzzy title and use of the word “fairness”, there is nothing fair about this legislation. It endangers every hard working American. Let me explain.
The Fairness in Class Actions Act is a product of the US Chamber of Commerce. Despite claiming that it represents the interests of 3 million businesses, the Chamber relies on a handful of super wealthy, big businesses for its funding and lobbying efforts.
We are not anti- business, not even anti-big business. But we are anti-corrupt business. Many of the primary funders of the Chamber’s lobbying arm are the very companies that have been successfully prosecuted by the government. Companies like Bank of America, Pfizer, Boeing.
Because these companies are the primary funders of the Chamber’s legislative and lobbying agenda, they get to set that agenda. In other words, the people that write the checks get to set the organization’s policies.
On the issues of class actions and whistleblower reforms, we believe the Chamber’s agenda hurts honest businesses; the business owners that are trying to play by the rules and treat their workers fairly.
The Fairness in Class Actions bill makes class actions virtually impossible. They will become virtually extinct overnight.
There are many people that don’t like lawyers. As a profession, we certainly have our faults and our own bad apples. In certain ways, that makes us a lot like the business community. 99% are honest, hard working people. The 1% (wrongdoers) get all the attention, however.
Class actions are necessary if ordinary people want to take on corporate America. We have successfully prosecuted some of the largest companies in America. It is no easy undertaking. Do you want to sue Bank of America? Plan on spending at least $500,000 in legal fees if not more.
Everyday we get phone calls from people losing their homes because of illegal or immoral behavior by banks and loan servicers. Yes, some of those people haven’t made mortgage payments and have less room to complain. But many have done nothing wrong.
Can someone losing their home afford $500,000 in legal fees? Of course not. Even if you could find a lawyer willing to take on a big bank on a contingent fee basis, what about the costs? Expenses and costs for electronic discovery, filing fees, expert witnesses and court costs in these cases are often over $100,000.
What about when Wells Fargo creates a fake account in your name and that causes your credit score to sink? Who can afford to sue for that? Or when a cancerous product from a nearby factory or fracking operation enters your well water?
If class actions are rendered extinct by Chamber and their cronies in Congress, who will defend the rights of you and I? Class actions are the only effective way for individual Americans to take on corporate giants.
Last week the Fairness in Class Actions bill was raced through the House. Despite opposition from dozens of groups including the American Bar Association, there was no hearing. None. Not only was the public prevented from having a say, the Committee didn’t even have a debate.
The bill sailed through committee and on Thursday, the full House of Representatives. The final vote was 220 for and 201 against. The vote was party line except for 12 brave Republican Congress members who broke ranks and refused to support the measure.
The Chamber and leadership was able to railroad the bill through the House but now people are waking up and realizing just how serious this legislation is to our legal system.
The good news is that it is not too late. Contact your Senator and let them know how terrible this legislation is. Even if your two Senators are Democrats and already oppose the bill, still let them know your feelings. Our elected leaders need to know how important this bill is.
We hope you never need our services to sue a big bank or company. But what happens if several years down the road you lose your retirement because of some shenanigans? If the Fairness in Class Actions bill makes it through the Senate, there will likely no class actions in the future. That’s great if you are a dishonest business looking to get over on consumers but horrible for consumers and the public. It’s horrible for honest businesses too.
What can you do? Call or email your U.S. Senators. It’s easy and takes just seconds. Use the U.S. Senate‘s own finder page to quickly locate email and phone links to your senators.
Not sure what to say? Visit the impactfund.org website on HR 985 Fairness in Class Actions legislative page. Their materials will give you some ideas.
Want to do us a favor? Please post a link to this page on Facebook, social media or email to your friends. When voters come together, politicians listen.
As always, thank you for being loyal readers and for supporting our firm. We are humbled by the many fine clients we have represented through the years. Your support makes what we do possible.