I write to urge Bowdoin students and Mainers to continue to hold Maine Senator Susan Collins accountable. Last week, Collins and Senate Republicans voted to repeal anti-forced arbitration rules, a practice wherein everyday consumers are required to waive their rights to class-action lawsuits and other means of accessing the courts, and instead are forced to settle their grievances with large companies through private arbitration. This repeal puts consumers at increased risk of being taken advantage of by large financial institutions. Forced arbitration language is often hidden in fine print, used to prevent financial institutions from being held accountable for their shady practices and to prevent consumers from getting their day in court.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), founded by President Barack Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren to protect consumers in the wake of the 2008 market collapse, put together a rule to prevent this practice, and last week, Collins and Senate Republicans voted to overturn it. This is a blatant move to protect large financial institutions against the grievances of consumers by forcing consumers to sue banks individually or go through arbitration instead of participating in class-action suits. This action stings even more on the heels of high-profile cases against Wells Fargo and Equifax that strengthen the case for the necessity of an effective and independent CFPB.
As Bowdoin students and Mainers, you are Collins’ constituents—the people she claims to represent. Do not let yourself be fooled into thinking that, because of a few high-profile votes, she no longer needs to be held accountable. Yes, Collins should be commended for her protection of Americans’ health insurance, but that does not excuse her anti-consumer actions. This vote will hurt Mainers and all Americans and makes a strong statement that Collins cares more about the interests of large financial institutions than the American people. Pressure from Senators’ home states has a real impact in how they vote, and Mainers should not let Collins forget that it is they, not Wells Fargo or Equifax, that put her on Capitol Hill. Forced arbitration is not as sexy or headline-grabbing of a cause as health care, but it is extremely important. Do not let Collins convince you that she no longer needs a watchful eye, and when you’re signing up for a bank account, make sure you read the fine print.
Julian Andrews is a member of the Class of 2017 and was editor in chief of the Orient.