Joe's Forced Binding Arbitration Battle: Bank Error Left Unresolved 7 Years Later

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In many situations, arbitration can be seen as a good thing.  A supposedly impartial third party can help two parties that can't agree find a common ground, resulting in a settlement that is mutually fair and beneficial to all involved.  Unfortunately, when individuals are forced into binding arbitration because of a non-reciprocal "you can't sue me" clause barring them from choosing to have their grievance heard in a court of law, the result isn't usually quite so fair, or beneficial to all involved.

Unfortunately, the arbitrator chosen by the corporate entity such as a nursing home, bank, cell phone provider or employer, generally doesn't have much of an incentive to side with the consumer when conflicts are brought to arbitration.  If the business comes out on top in the arbitration proceedings they will likely bring more business to the arbitration company in the future, while when cases come out in favor of the consumer the odds are good future business may end up going elsewhere.  Worse, since the arbitrator's decision is considered binding, there is typically no way for a consumer to appeal an unfair arbitrator's ruling.

Joseph Yankovec knows all too well how much trouble being forced into arbitration can cause.  In 2004 he went to his local Bank One branch to make a large withdrawal prior to having surgery.  Not having that amount of money on hand, the bank asked if he would accept a cashier's check for the full amount instead.  Joe says he accepted the cashier's check, held onto it for a month while he had his surgery, only to discover afterward that his wife at the time had gotten a stop order put on the check despite having no right to do so.

The facts were on Joe's side -but he was about to learn that didn't matter. The facts as Joe recites them are quite clear: The bank gave Joe a cashier's check.  The bank made a big error in allowing his wife to initiate the stop order and instead of admitting their mistake and trying to make things right with Joe, the bank sided with Joe's wife and then refused to take accountability or admit any error on their part. When Joe argued against this and pointed out that the bank had received payment for a cashier's check (for which he was the sole payee) and were required by federal law to safeguard the funds they'd received until that check was cashed, the issue was forced into arbitration.

In the seven years since Bank One initiated the arbitration on Joe's case, the bank itself was bought by Chase Bank.  Joe has tried to find some way to recoup the $25,000 that he lost due to the bank negligence that allowed his now ex-wife to stop payment on a cashier's check that she wasn't a payee on, but he believes it has become clear that Chase is content to simply sweep the matter under the rug. 

Joe believes that there was a clear cooperation between Bank One and the arbitration company to make sure his dispute wasn't resolved in his favor, and the matter remains unresolved to this day.

Access to the justice system and a fair shake under the law are often a consumers' only safety net when harmed by others. Without the threat of a lawsuit, or legal precedents, corporations are free to engage in negligent or reckless behavior without fear of accountability.  Consumer protection laws were designed to deter deceptive, unfair and illegal acts. They were not designed to shield corporations from them. Our judicial system and laws must protect ALL individuals, even those who don't have deep pockets and the only way we can be assured of equal justice under the law is to ban the practice of  forced binding arbitration.

Joe believes it became clear very early on that the arbitrator was only there to protect the interests of its financial partner.  You might even have a story like this yourself.  If so, share it to help shed light on the effects of forced binding arbitration. You can comment below or email me here. 

To learn more about binding arbitration read a few earlier blogs.
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