American Arbitration Association: Where’s the public confidence?
by Editorial Staff
We write a lot about arbitration because there’s a lot to write about it. It’s a broad topic with many tentacles- too many, in fact.
For a large percentage of Americans, they unknowingly waive their right to take a dispute against a business to court when they sign a user agreement or terms of service contract. Instead, they are forced into arbitration, purported to be a neutral, unbiased, and less costly alternative to court.
Neutrality, by definition, is the state of not supporting or helping either side in a conflict or disagreement and exercising impartiality.
It shouldn’t make the public feel all warm and fuzzy when the country’s largest arbitration organization, the American Arbitration Association (AAA) is a sponsor of the Construction SuperConference to be held in Las Vegas Dec. 1-3. “The Construction SuperConference, partnered with the American Arbitration Association, provides in-depth, topical educational content that drills deep into the issues facing construction and law professionals,” according to its promotional material. It notes that AAA “members” receive 15 percent off of the conference registration fee.
The topics addressed, according to the prospectus, include:
- Ethics and Compliance
- Innovative Litigation Strategies
- Risk Management
- Dispute Resolution
- Contract Management
- Workforce and Labor
- Insurance and Surety
- Infrastructure and Transportation
- Economic Forecasts
It is somewhat disturbing that an arbitration organization is taking part in a conference that has to do with “innovative litigation strategies” and “dispute resolution.” To the outsider it gives the appearance that conference attendees are getting insider information.
If Congress wants to shove arbitration down the throats of Americans then they should also shove some ethics rules down the throats of arbitration organizations. After all, the law mandates that judges and politicians avoid the appearance of impropriety. Why aren’t these organizations, that essentially act as courts, have the same stipulations? In actuality, there’s little Congressional oversight of arbitration organizations, at least that we can find. They are essentially self-governed and self-policed.
As we reported, one California resident went through the arbitration process with an arbitrator from AAA only to learn after-the-fact that the arbitrator had ties to the defendant in his case. The resident didn’t feel he had gotten a fair shake in his proceedings and after his discovery, he’s pretty confident that he didn’t.
Imagine being involved in an arbitration hearing Dec. 4, one day after the conference. And imagine that the dispute involves construction.
It just doesn’t have that warm and fuzzy feeling, does it?