City Attorney Dennis Herrera Ups Ante in S.F.-Minnesota Credit Card Credit-Hogging Dispute

Categories: Law & Order
Don't worry, hypothetical Michigan Tech alum Chris L. Martin! Dennis Herrera has got your back.
When Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson hogged credit last month for attacking a loophole companies use to prevent consumer lawsuits, observers said San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera was getting the short end of the stick. A July 17 settlement between Swanson's office and the National Arbitration Association upended the U.S. credit card industry by making it harder for companies to avoid consumer litigation.

Herrera's office actually deserved partial credit for that suit, because he filed a related complaint in San Francisco last year. But Swanson gave nary a nod west. Today, Herrera announced that he'd leveraged the arbitration litigation to pressure Bank of America to get out of the bogus arbitration business entirely, and in the process offered Swanson a similar flip of the bird.

Consumer advocates have long cried foul that mandatory arbitration has been quietly slipped into the fine print of millions of credit card, cell phone, and other consumer contracts, causing consumers to unknowingly sign away their rights. Swanson's office forced a settlement by showing that the top arbitration firm was owned by the same hedge fund that owned a major collection agency, unearthing memos suggesting the resulting amalgamation would efficiently shove inflated credit card charges down consumers' throats.

But Swanson's case actually got its start in San Francisco, where Herrera's office alleged that arbitration proceedings were systematically rigged in credit firms' favor, resulting in anti-consumer resolutions 95 percent of the time. San Francisco attorneys kindly guided Minnesota state barristers through the details of their suit when they came calling last year.

Today, Herrera issued a press release announcing Bank of America had "dropped a requirement that consumers with disputes over their credit card debt enter into binding arbitration. The change will enable consumers to file civil lawsuits against the bank to allege unfair or illegal treatment. Bank of America, the nation's largest bank, is the first major institution of its kind to announce it is ending its use of mandatory arbitration."

Herrera's release described Swanson's July settlement with the arbitration firms, without mentioning her, or her office, by name:

"Today's Bank of America decision follows an announcement last month by the National Arbitration Forum that it would cease handling consumer credit card arbitration matters." 

While two parties targeted in Herrera's lawsuit have now voluntarily addressed some of the case's objectives, the litigation remains active in pursuit of "financial penalties and other relief that may be deemed necessary," the release said.

We'll have to give Herrera credit: He's a real card.
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