The effort by Cowboys running back Darren McFadden to recover money he believes what stolen from him by a financial adviser, already the subject of three lawsuits, will now include an arbitration proceeding.
According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, McFadden has placed his litigation against Ameriprise Financial Services on hold so that he can pursue an arbitration claim against the publicly-traded corporation that listed more than $11 billion in net revenues in its 2016 annual report.
Of course, McFadden doesn’t really want to pursue arbitration. McFadden and his lawyers apparently have concluded that he had no choice but to pursue that route against Ameriprise, possibly due to an arbitration agreement that Ameriprise drops into the various documents and paperwork that a new client is required to sign, regardless of whether they truly understand what they’re signing.
More and more large companies secure commitments from their customers to refer any claims to arbitration, since it removes the process from the hands of a jury of regular people who may not fully understand the process and who may make decisions based on sympathy for the “little guy” who is taking on the faceless corporate behemoth and/or a shrugging acceptance of the reality that the money the plaintiff wants will amount to pocket change for the large company that is being sued. In arbitration, a lawyer or former judge will hear the evidence and make a decision based on the facts and the law without sympathy or any other consideration influencing the outcome.
Ameriprise has found itself embroiled in the McFadden controversy because Ameriprise employed the financial planner who allegedly misappropriated millions from McFadden, dating back to 2008, when at the age of 20 he signed a $60 million contract with the Raiders. McFadden claims that Ameriprise negligently allowed the financial advisor to assume “unfettered power and ability to control all of McFadden’s income and financial transactions,” and that Ameriprise failed to inform McFadden upon the advisor’s departure from the company in 2010 that it had been investigating him for suspicious and unauthorized activity and allowed him to persuade McFadden to transfer his holdings to other firms, allegedly allowing the misappropriation of McFadden’s money to continue.
If you’ve made it this far, here’s the message to anyone who is being asked to sign a bunch of forms when doing business with a large company: Be on the lookout for arbitration agreements. Though some judges won’t force individuals to follow through on the take-it-or-leave-it term thrown into the fine-print boilerplate of a multi-page form contract, plenty of others compel the agreement to be honored, diverting the case from the legal system and dropping it into a mechanism that is far more favorable to the billion-dollar businesses that abhor the idea of facing a panel of average Americans who may hold the company accountable for its misdeeds.
I could say more about the political underpinnings of this concept and whether the average person who supports such an approach to American justice truly realizes that they are supporting such an approach to American justice, but I’ll stick to football instead.