Billionaires And Bagmen talks about a number of issues crucial to our rights that have systematically been destroyed by the super-rich and their handpicked legislators, regulators and judicial appointees. Sean Cogan and his friends talk about them as some of the reasons they want the have the citizens of Fairview to vote for their independence…from everybody.
These rights include the substitution of biased, binding arbitration for the right to a jury trial; the elimination of the threat of large punitive damage awards even in cases of clear proof of outrageous fraud, and the invalidation of campaign finance reform—often called Citizen’s United for the entity that brought the case before the Supreme Court– which guarantees the perpetuation of the stranglehold the super-rich and multi-national corporations have on our “democracy”.
Not everyone understands how this all works. So let’s take a look at each one.
First, binding arbitration. Let’s say you invest a big chunk of your life savings through a well-known securities firm. Your broker, who turns out to be a full-blown con artist, loses it all by buying stock in a company his firm took public. The company, you learn, is dumping these shares by selling them to naive individual investors. You threaten to sue. “Sorry,” says the broker, “you signed a binding arbitration agreement. You can’t sue.”
“Who is the arbitrator?” you demand.
“Hal,,” he replies.
Hal turns out to be the broker’s good friend and squash partner. The case is assigned to him. You lose. You threaten to appeal.
“Sorry,” he says again. “The arbitrator’s decision is final and binding.”
You pluck down thousands of dollars with lawyers trying to right this wrong. The case drags on.
Three years later Clarence Thomas, fresh from a two-week trip to a Paris five-star hotel, all expenses paid by a very wealthy big business donor, writes the 5-4 Supreme Court decision. “Binding arbitration provisions in commercial contract,” Thomas says, “are clearly valid and enforceable.”
BTW, binding arbitration provisions now exist in all kinds of commercial contracts as well as in every credit card agreement you sign. Including many insurance policies. Fair? No. But the only way that can ever change is if Congress (the bagmen) writes a law to undo what the Supreme Court did. Good luck.
Stay tuned for the skinny on Punitive Damages.