A reasonable person may have thought that the Supreme Court effectively killed off class arbitrations with its decisions in Stolt-Nielsen and Concepcion, but at least two government agencies have recently made decisions that ensure financial consumers and employees can bring classwide claims in some arbitrations.
FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, regulates all securities firms doing business in the United States. It also administers the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and investment firms. FINRA has enacted rules that prohibit investment firms from including class action waivers in their agreements with customers. Not only does it have those rules, but it is enforcing them. Just last week, FINRA brought an enforcement action against Charles Schwab for “violating FINRA rules by requiring its customers to waive their rights to bring class actions against the firm.”
In January, the NLRB, National Labor Relations Board, “ruled that it is a violation of federal labor law to require employees to sign arbitration agreements that prevent them from joining together to pursue employment-related legal claims in any forum, whether in arbitration or in court.” In its decision, the NLRB acknowledged that it was confronted for the first time with a conflict between federal precedent interpreting the Federal Arbitration Act and precedent interpreting the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB’s outcome, it found, was an “appropriate accomodation of the policies underlying the two statutes.”
It appears the executive branch is ready to take on the judicial branch over the issue of class arbitration.