NewYorkUniversity
LawReview
Current Issue

Volume 86, Number 2

May 2011
Articles

Distributing Justice

Adam S. Zimmerman

This Article explores the procedural concerns that arise when regulatory agencies mimic class actions by collecting big monetary judgments on behalf of victims. Over the past decade, agencies have collected over $10 billion to compensate people hurt by massive frauds, false advertising, and defective drugs, using proceeds from penalties levied against regulatory violators. Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission regularly seeks awards against large public companies and distributes the money to injured investors through “Fair Funds.” The Federal Trade Commission similarly seeks restitution against parties profiting from unfair trade practices and distributes awards to consumers. Even the U.S. Postal Service distributes the ill-gotten profits of scam artists to victims of mail fraud. However, unlike private lawsuits, agencies afford few safeguards for the victims they compensate. Agencies lack adequate procedures to hear victims’ claims, identify conflicts between different parties, or coordinate with other kinds of lawsuits. I argue that agencies should continue to play a role—albeit a limited one—in compensating victims for widespread harm. However, when agencies compensate victims, they should adopt rules similar to those that exist in private litigation to resolve differences between victims, improve judicial review, and coordinate with private lawsuits. I propose three solutions to give victims more voice in their own redress, while preserving an agency’s flexibility to enforce the law: (1) that agencies involve representative stakeholders in settlement discussions through negotiated rulemaking; (2) that courts subject agency decisions to hard look review; and (3) that courts and agencies coordinate overlapping settlements before a single federal judge.

Arbitration as Delegation

David Horton

Hundreds of millions of consumer and employment contracts include arbitration clauses, class arbitration waivers, and other terms that modify the rules of litigation. These provisions ride the wake of the Supreme Court’s expansive interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). For decades, scholars have criticized the Court’s arbitration jurisprudence for distorting Congress’s intent and tilting the scales of justice in favor of powerful corporations. This Article claims that the Court’s reading of the FAA suffers from a deeper, more fundamental flaw: It has transformed the statute into a private delegation of legislative power. The nondelegation doctrine forbids Congress from allowing private actors to make law unless they do so through a process that internalizes the wishes of affected parties or that is subject to meaningful state oversight. The FAA as construed by the Court violates this rule. First, companies have invoked the statute to create a parallel system of civil procedure for consumer and employment cases. This river of privately made law not only washes away Congress’s procedural rulemaking efforts but dilutes the potency of substantive rights. Second, although businesses ostensibly impose these rules through the mechanism of contracting—a process normally rooted in mutual consent—the Court’s arbitration case law deviates from traditional contract principles. It funnels consumers and employees into arbitration even when they truthfully claim that they did not agree to arbitrate. Third, despite the fact that the FAA as enacted mandates robust judicial review of privately made procedural rules, the Court has all but abolished this safeguard. This Article concludes that the Court should recognize that the FAA as interpreted raises grave private delegation issues and should thus limit the statute.

Tax Deregulation

Steven A. Dean

Deregulation has played both the hero and the villain in recent years. This Article evaluates the impact of deregulation on what may be the single most economically important regulatory regime: the income tax. In order to accomplish this goal, it applies the concepts of fiscal arbitrage and compliance spirals to three deregulatory tax reforms. Compliance spirals describe an enforcement dynamic in which the regulator encourages compliance through a system of rewards for cooperation and punishment for noncooperation. Fiscal arbitrage describes policy measures that exploit cognitive biases and other anomalies to deliver political benefits by using minimal political capital. The combination of these two concepts creates a tool for tax authorities to evaluate deregulatory tax provisions for likely costs and benefits. On balance, this Article finds that tax deregulation is likely to be harmful.

Notes

Workplace Grievance Procedures: Signaling Fairness but Escalating Commitment

Joshua C. Polster

Over the last fifty years, nonunion employers have increasingly adopted formal
grievance procedures, which allow employees to challenge a company decision or
policy and appeal manager adjudications of the challenge. Employers have
adopted these procedures to minimize liability and ensure employee productivity.
But while these procedures signal that employees are treated fairly, the psychological
theory of escalation of commitment suggests that complaint-and-appeals procedures
exacerbate workplace conflict. This Note presents this unintended
consequence of formal grievance procedures and discusses its implications for
workplace dispute resolution. Part I explains the adoption of formal grievance procedures
as employer efforts to signal that employees are treated fairly. Part II
applies the psychological theory of escalation to grievance procedures, and Part III
argues that escalation undermines the purpose of formal grievance procedures and
proposes mediation as an escalation-reducing alternative.

Sentencing Entrapment and the Undue Influence Enhancement

Kirstin Kerr O’Connor

With the rapid growth of the Internet, Congress and the United States Sentencing
Commission have expressed concern over the increasing opportunities for sex
predators to target children online. This concern has resulted in the creation of a
complex sentencing regime for such sex offenders. The provision of the Guidelines
that determines the sentence for persons convicted of attempted statutory rape
includes an enhancement for exerting undue influence over the victim. Federal
courts had struggled with whether this enhancement could be applied to those
caught in undercover law enforcement stings in which no real “victim” existed. The
Sentencing Commission intervened in 2009 to specify that the Undue Influence
Enhancement was inapplicable to such undercover operations.
This Note explores the circuit split that prompted the Commission’s clarification
and examines the appropriateness of applying the Undue Influence Enhancement
in undercover Internet stings. In particular, it analyzes the enhancement in light of
entrapment and sentencing entrapment principles and ultimately concludes that
these concerns do not compel a blanket prohibition on utilizing the enhancement in
undercover operations.

Noticing Crisis

Pieter S. de Ganon

This Note contends that the Supreme Court has systematically used the doctrine of
judicial notice to portray the nation’s schools as rife with crisis. Ignoring the record
before it, the Court has relied on the “crisis” it has manufactured to curtail students’
Fourth Amendment rights. Critiquing this practice and likening it to the Court’s
invocation of “emergency” in the context of war and natural disaster, this Note
concludes that the Court ought to be held more accountable for the “facts” that it
judicially notices.