privatization gone wild
a times editorial
published april 6, 2005

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lose a case, lobby the legislature to change the law. in yet another example of circumventing the judiciary, the check-cashing industry is trying to make arbitration agreements legally binding even when the underlying contracts are as illegal as usury. this bad legislation, sb 2242 and hb 1343, would overturn a recent 5-1 decision of the florida supreme court.

that threatens everybody, not just the relatively few floridians whose illegal "payday" loans, predating present laws, are still being litigated. too many routine contracts, for everything from stock brokerage accounts to consumer purchases, come with fine print waiving your right to see a judge over any disagreement. arbitration can be convenient and economical for both parties, but a real judge should have the first say when the underlying contract is fraudulent or offends public policy as gravely as some of the payday lending schemes did.

for the sake of the argument - which they lost - counsel for one of the check-cashers had to concede to the court that even a contract for murder or illegal drugs would be controlled by an arbitration agreement. the arbitrator rather than a judge would decide whether it was illegal. that is privatization gone wild, and the legislature should have nothing to do with it.