Rich Uncle Moneybags, otherwise known as the “Monopoly Man,” made a special appearance at the Equifax Senate Hearing Wednesday. While the attendance of such a prestigious character from the popular board game had its hilarious moments, the message being sent was clear – stop the use of forced arbitration.
Amanda Werner of Americans for Financial Reform and Public Citizen dressed for the cause – complete with a black top hat and a white, bushy mustache. She sat behind former Equifax CEO Richard Smith as he testified about the massive data breach. Werner’s expression was a mixture of sincere thoughtfulness with a comical edge as she wiped perspiration from her forehead with wads of paper (play) money. Now and then she would adjust her monocle, as if to get a better look at the former CEO.
Werner’s protest kicked off the “Get out of jail free” campaign meant to fight against forced arbitration from the big bank companies such as Wells Fargo and Equifax.
Forced Arbitration: A Rigged Game
“Make no mistake: Arbitration is a rigged game, one that the bank nearly always wins,” Werner said. “Shockingly, the average consumer forced to arbitrate with Wells Fargo was ordered to pay the bank nearly $11,000. Bank lobbyists and their allies in Congress are trying to overturn the CFPB’s rule so they can continue to rip off consumers with impunity.”
Werner stood outside the conference room before the hearing, handing out get out of jail free cards as people entered. The symbolism, according to Public Citizen, demonstrates how financial companies can do what they want at the expense of consumers without worry of retribution.
“Forced arbitration gives companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax a monopoly over our system of justice by blocking consumers’ access to the courts,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The CRA resolution striking down the arbitration rule is a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card for companies engaged in financial scams. It should not pass go.”
Public Citizen claims that take-it-or-leave-it contracts with hidden forced arbitration clauses are the prime source for financial companies, credit card companies, and lenders to “escape accountability for cheating and defrauding consumers.”
Equifax Tried to Capitalize on Catastrophe
After the massive data breach, Equifax offered its consumers a way to monitor their credit. However, former CEO Smith made it a mandatory requirement that consumers must accept arbitration if they wish to settle a dispute. Although this condition has been overturned, and Smith admits it was a mistake, it has put the practice under a scrutinizing spotlight.
Werner started handing out the get out of jail free cards at the Wells Fargo hearing, as well as to hundreds of senators. Her appearance at the Senate hearing made a bold statement. It’s time to stop the monopoly big banking has over its consumers. Perhaps Wells Fargo and Equifax will toss out the community chest for consumers to share instead of filling their coffers? No, not likely. It was a pleasant thought, though. Until such a time, we at least have Rich Uncle Moneybags looking out for us.