Forced Arbitration is Unfair and You’ve Probably Already Agreed to it.

Susan Bostian
3 min readApr 22, 2024
A sign that says Google
Photo by Sascha Bosshard on Unsplash

Since writing about my experience with forced arbitration, I’ve learned that Steve Wozniak is working with Googlers to End Forced Arbitration, and President Biden signed a bill to end forced arbitration but only for cases of sexual assault and harassment. However, the problem still exists for many of us.

Forced arbitration is a clause that affects at least sixty million Americans who typically have no idea that it is hidden in their employment contracts, cell phone agreements, and paperwork when opening bank accounts.

Most of us don’t read all the pages of small print in contracts and unknowingly sign our rights away. We agree that if we have a dispute or disagreement with our employer, broker, or company we will not use the court system to sue them.

We agree to binding arbitration where either one or three panelists will hear our grievances and make a decision without having to provide an explanation. And there will be no appeal process. And these panelists/arbitrators can get hired and paid by the same companies over and over again.

In my case, the head of the panel, who was a non-public, industry expert voted for me. The other two panelists, who were public, for hire arbitrators, voted against the panel expert, and voted for Merrill Lynch. No reason, no appeal.

Here’s a link to a more in depth explanation of how many people are affected by forced arbitration and how the outcomes of this system are much worse than a court decision.

But, people are fighting back. One brave woman, Tanuja Jain Gupta, helped organize Googlers around the world to walk out of their offices and protest. Her action led to the removal of forced arbitration for sexual assault and harassment cases at Google, Apple, Meta, and other major tech companies.

Here’s Tanuja’s story about continuing the fight against forced arbitration.

Meanwhile, I have learned that two senators have submitted a bill to Congress called FAIR (Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal) Act. The bill passed in the House but got sent to a committee in the Senate where Republicans opposed it.

I also spoke to a financial expert who taught ethics at a California university. He felt very strongly that the outcome of my forced arbitration against my broker for failure to sell my stock and conflict of interest would have had a much different outcome if it had been allowed to go to court.

In my case, my broker’s failure to sell my stock resulted in the loss of buying out my husband’s share of our home during our divorce. He also kept me in this high risk stock until it was worthless.

It’s also been suggested that the broker had a conflict of interest in representing my husband and me during and after our divorce when we may have had conflicting motives about selling our stock.

The broker also had a conflict of interest by representing me, my ex-husband, other senior members of the company, and Merrill Lynch who was the holder of the stock.

My ex-husband would tell me later that everyone knew that the company was trying to make a deal and the optics of someone with the same name as one of the founders of the company (my ex-husband) selling stocks would look bad.

Here’s a link in case you want to read more about my situation.

So, what can you do? Contact your congressional representative and voice your support for FAIR, (Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal) Act.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me and shared information. I really appreciate your help. Please continue to send references and recommendations.

--

--