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Op-Ed: Private arbitration — Corporate crime on the rampage, again

When signing a phone, credit card or other contract, you agree to arbitration, whether you know it or not. You also abrogate all your legal rights in the process, according to the theory of these contracts. An “independent arbitrator” is supposedly used to determine claims, but there’s usually no indication of who or what this arbitrator is.
In employment law, the same applies. You can theoretically be fired illegally, discriminated against, etc, and there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s usually no right of appeal, either, unlike court verdicts.
This means that the corporate criminal classes have scored a massive victory over the US Constitution, which allows due process, basic contract and statute law. According to The New York Times:
“This is among the most profound shifts in our legal history,” William G. Young, a federal judge in Boston who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview. “Ominously, business has a good chance of opting out of the legal system altogether and misbehaving without reproach.”
One of the reasons for the rise of arbitration clauses in contracts is the sheer number of class actions taken out against American businesses. The claimants were winning, too. So the same corporate culture which gave the US Enron, Bernie Madoff, Wall Street and the rest of the Psycho Theme Park which used to be American business has apparently decided to opt out of any legal obligations to anyone – And the new, dynamic, whiter, brighter, 100% credibility-free US legal system has simply accepted it.
In effect:
Any contract-related law is irrelevant.
There is no need for lawyers, legislators, or courts because an arbitrator can make a decision with no recourse available to the claimant.
Another way of looking at contract arbitration – Absolute crap, from start to finish.
To explain – Contract law is written under the legal framework created by the Constitution.
Contracts do not exempt anyone from prosecution under criminal law or other statutes.
A contract is a contract, not a statute. It has no force at all, if deemed to be illegal, coercive, or otherwise not viable.
Therefore, actions taken under that contract are not immune to prosecution or other legal processes.
You can’t shoot someone or rob a bank and say “It’s OK, I have a contract.”
Ironically, the corporations have also given themselves a few toxic problems. If someone working for a corporation under an arbitration clause commits fraud, can they prosecute? Can an arbitrator deliver jail time or fines? No. They have no statutory power to do so.
To quote the 14th Amendment, according to Cornell:
Section 1.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Meaning arbitration is not enforceable. It’s a load of garbage. It shouldn’t exist, and has no status under the Constitution. Any such action must refer to statutes, and legal protection is a Constitutional right. “Property” may include wages, services and entitlements provided under contract and similar bric a brac.
Now wait for a few decades while the mighty intellects of the Supreme Court and Congress grapple with this issue. Only in the senile, decrepit, and unbelievably corrupt modern version of the United States would this sickening decadence even be considered possible, let alone doable.

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Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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