Because my practice focuses on complex commercial disputes–especially cases involving antitrust, oil and gas, and patents–I keep daily track of important decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals.

You can follow along during the week on Twitter (@contingencyblog) or here at The Contingency each Monday with this Commercial Case Roundup: U.S. Appeals.
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imageExposure

A U.S. appeals court judge told me a few years ago that private contracts between businesses should call for settling disputes through bench trials rather than by arbitration.

But neither the judge nor I thought to mention a factor that may matter more than the relative quality of justice in courts versus private arbitration. As a recent 2-1 ruling by the Ninth Circuit just reminded us, federal courts strongly favor public access to case records — even if the records include deeply embarrassing documents that a party produced in discovery.
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Handshake with TearLast Thursday, the Association for Corporate Growth hosted a talk in Dallas about deals that result in a lawsuit or arbitration. Several dozen deal-makers, mergers and acquisitions lawyers, and consultants attended. The Honorable Jeff Kaplan of JAMS, Elizabeth Brandon of Vinson & Elkins, and I gave the talk. Ladd Hirsch of Diamond McCarthy organized and moderated the event. In a little over an hour, we discussed the characteristics that commonly occur in transactions that produce formal claims, offered suggestions on how deal-makers can manage the risk of earl disputes, and answered several thoughtful questions from the audience. I enjoyed the session immensely. Please see my review of the lively discussion below.
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Banned ItemsIn 2016, despite contracts that mandate one-on-one arbitrations, consumers will likely gain the right to bring claims against banks, credit card issuers, and other lenders in class actions. The new rule, which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced on October 7, 2015 it will probably issue next year, will partially reverse a string of recent Supreme Court decisions that made class-banning arbitration clauses broadly enforceable.

The action by the Bureau will vastly raise the stakes for disputes involving practices affecting large numbers of consumer finance customers.
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In 2010, when it passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a watchdog for consumers who buy financial products and services. The CFPB’s mission included looking at the effect of arbitration clauses in consumer contracts and proposing rules to regulate them if appropriate.

LuxotticaConcepcion in question

Last week, the Ninth Circuit found a way around the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011). The panel held, 2-1, that a qui tam-like claim differs enough from a state-law class action claim to take it beyond Concepcion‘s preemptive reach.

The ruling means, in the Ninth Circuit, that Concepcion will not allow defendants to use arbitration clauses to defeat claims that private plaintiffs bring on behalf of the state and that defendants may therefore face individual cases, in court or arbitration, that put far more than the individuals’ claims at stake.
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