Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 NCLC Consumer Rights Conference

I recently came back from the 2010 NCLC Consumer Rights Conference which was held in Boston this year. Boston was a wonderful city, very clean, friendly and accessible, even if expensive. Sherry and Sara really enjoyed the many museums and we all enjoyed the Cambridge area. As usual, the folks at NCLC put on a great conference. I especially enjoyed some of the break out session on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA). Many FRCA violations occur in consumer transactions and often go unnoticed.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Documenting Your Case

One of the main reasons lawyers do not take cases involves lack of proper documentation. Many consumers who have been the victim of some type of wrongdoing are able to adequately describe what happened during the initial interview but come up short with the documentation to back up and support their complaint. At a minimum here is what I like to see in the way of documentation:

1. The original purchase agreement or bill of sale.
2. Any warranty documentation.
3. All correspondence.
4. Pictures if applicable.
5. Notes or diary of all phone conversations (who, what, when, where & why).
6. Receipts for all out of pocket expenses.
7. Names and addresses of all potential witnesses.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Health Insurance or Discount Program?

With so much attention focused on the Obama health care plan, it seems like more and more ads have sprung up peddling cheap health insurance programs. As the old saying goes, if it sounds to good to be true, it probably isn't. Many of these so called "health care programs" are nothing more than a proposed discount program that claim certain discounts are available through various participating doctors, pharmacies and hospitals etc. Sadly, some of the more fast talking salespersons for these companies tout them as "health insurance". Only in the fine print do you learn that it is a discount program and not health insurance. If no providers in your area participate in the program then it is of no real value and even if some do the number of procedures or services covered are often very restrictive.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The real storm begins: Citizens United v. FEC

After being sick most of December with my first ever bout with bronchitis and the start of session, it is hard to find time to blog. However, with the recent decision in Citizens vs. Federal Elections Commission I feel compelled to vent my thoughts. This decisison has the potential to go down as one of the worst decision by the Court. Time will tell, but clearly corporations as well as unions, now have the greenlight to raid their treasuries for use in influencing elections. They no longer have to go through the process of setting up separate PAC's and following rules pertaining to those. Interestingly, this decision is seen as primarily mostly benefiting Republicans who are perceived to be aligned more with "business." However, some quick research shows that a variety of groups filed amicus curie (friend of the court) briefs in support of Citizen's United. These include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, NRA and the Cato Institute not to mention various individuals such as Senator Mitch McConnell. Those filing briefs in support of the Federal Elections Commission (and presumably arguing for the constitutionality of the campaign finance laws at issue) include Senator John McCain, League of Women Voters, and American Independent Business Alliance.

Desite this list of "odd bedfellows", the decision is bad for Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, Joe the plumber, and for everyone else to boot. This is not a free speech issue. This is a "corporate issue". Corporations are not natural born individuals - they are creatures of statute. To say they have a virtually unfettered right under the First Amendment to get involved in elections is to misunderstand the very nature of these entities. As creatures of statute (and born of ink and paper) they exist because we say they can exist. We endow them with certain rights and special powers (such as liability protection for shareholders and the ability to exist perpetually) to help further our citizens - the natural born ones- in the pursuit of economic activity. Corporations are a tool for furthering the public good. This decision enables the "tail to wag the dog." Corporations will now be able to turn their attention even more to politics and use their massive wealth (which we enable through our corporate and tax laws) to influence elections for the benefit of their own commercial ends. As former Justice Sandra Day O'Conner noted, we are now likely to see an escalating "political arms race". We will all be the worse off.