NewYorkUniversity
LawReview

Issues

Topic

Comparative and Foreign Law

Results

Fighting Unfair Classifications in Credit Reporting: Should the United States Adopt GDPR-Inspired Rights in Regulating Consumer Credit?

Vlad A. Hertza

Access to consumer credit is essential to accumulate wealth. The use of big data and machine learning in assessing creditworthiness can be a great opportunity to generate more accurate credit reports and improve access to credit. However, so far, lenders have used big data and machine learning to generate profits, developing algorithms that unfairly classify consumers. Racial and other protected minorities are disproportionately affected by these practices. Consumer credit is regulated in the U.S. mainly under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Equal Credit Opportunities Act (ECOA). These statutes are inadequate to regulate lenders, credit reporting agencies (CRAs), and data brokers which use big data and machine-learning algorithms to assess consumers’ creditworthiness. Noticing recent international developments, this Note proposes the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an industry-agnostic data privacy law passed by the European Union (EU), as a model for consumer credit reform. Concretely, the Note proposes expanding consumer credit regulation from CRAs to all actors involved in the processing of consumer data, as well as granting consumers the right to access their data, have it corrected, moved to a different processor, or erased. Furthermore, these rights should be backed by the recognition of a property-like interest in personal data. Part I describes the prevailing use of big data and machine learning in consumer credit, exposing some of the major issues of the consumer credit industry. The Part ends with an overview of the current regulatory regime. Part II explores how the use of big data and machine learning erodes consumer protections, showing how the current regulatory regime fails to adequately protect consumers. Part III introduces the GDPR, an industry agnostic data protection regulation adopted by the European Union, as a model for reforming consumer credit regulation in the United States. The Part proposes three ways in which the GDPR can improve the FCRA and the ECOA, and addresses a number of potential counterarguments.

Chinese Workers vs. Walmart: Brainstorming Solutions to Funding Strategic Labor Litigation in the Wake of China’s 2017 Foreign NGO Law

Audrey Winn

Over the past two years, China’s treatment of labor advocates was full of conflicting norms: Though the Party remained hostile toward labor organizing directed at domestic employers, certain conditions caused state officials to hesitate in violently cracking down on labor organizing directed at Western companies. Against this backdrop, groups like the Walmart Chinese Workers’ Association (WCWA) were leading successful campaigns to fight worker exploitation through organizing and legal remedies. In order to fund litigation against Walmart, the WCWA received litigation funding from nonprofit groups like the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB). However, in January 2017, China passed a new Foreign Non-Governmental Organization Law (FNGO), which requires both foreign and Hong Kong nonprofits, like CLB, to register and submit themselves to greater government control in order to continue working in China. As a result, labor nonprofits like CLB are no longer able to fund litigation for groups like the WCWA. This Note proposes one way that Chinese labor organizations and NGOs could address the funding issues caused by the FNGO Law. Part I will discuss the state-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), explain the role it plays in the larger Communist Party agenda, and discuss the conditions in China that have created an opportunity for labor groups like the WCWA to form. Part II will discuss how the WCWA had been using strategic litigation prior to the FNGO Law, as well as how the FNGO Law affected the WCWA’s use of strategic litigation. Finally, Part III will suggest third-party litigation funding as a potential solution to this problem.

Populism and Institutional Design: Methods of Selecting Candidates for Chief Executive

Stephen Gardbaum, Richard H. Pildes

The institutional design through which democracies choose nominees who compete to become a nation’s chief executive is among the most consequential features in the design of democratic elections. Yet there is surprisingly little scholarship that explores this issue in detail. This Article provides both historical perspective on the evolution over time of the nomination process in the United States and comparative perspective on how other major democracies structure this process. The central organizing theme of this piece is the contrast between nomination processes that entail a central role for “peer review”—in which party leaders have a central voice in the selection of their parties’ nominees—and purely populist selection methods, in which ordinary voters completely control the selection of nominees and party figures have no special role. The first half of the Article is historical and focuses on the United States. In the 1970s, the United States shifted almost overnight from the methods that had been used for nearly 200 years to select party nominees, in which official representatives of the political parties played the major role in deciding the parties’ candidates for President, to a purely populist mode (primaries and caucuses) for selecting presidential nominees. The consequences of this dramatic transformation have manifested themselves in recent presidential nomination contests. In this Part, we seek to show both how radical the change was that was made in the 1970s and yet how accidental, contingent, and inadvertent this transformation was. The “framers” of these changes did not actually intend to create the system with which we ended up, in which the primaries and caucuses completely determine the parties’ nominees. The second half is comparative and explores how other major democracies structure the process of choosing party leaders and candidates for chief executive. This part shows that the U.S. system is an extreme outlier among major democracies: In no other democracy is the selection completely controlled by the mass of ordinary voters. Most other democracies use systems of pure peer review to select candidates for chief executive; or use systems that mix elements of peer review with popular participation; and in other ways continue to give official representatives of the parties much greater say than in the United States over the selection of the parties’ nominees for chief executive.

Things Better Left Unwritten?: Constitutional Text and the Rule of Law

Jane Pek

The written nature of America’s Constitution has been traditionally regarded as a constitutional virtue, and more recently dismissed as an irrelevancy of form. However, the concept of “writtenness” itself, in the constitutional context, remains vague and undefined. Through a comparison of the United States and United Kingdom constitutions, this Note identifies the essential characteristics of a written constitution and examines how such writtenness affects the achievement of the rule of law in a society. The Note argues that an unwritten constitution may prove as conducive to important rule-of-law values as a written constitution, if not more so, and challenges the general perception of writtenness as an unequivocally desirable aspect of our Constitution.

Is Private Securities Litigation Essential for the Development of China’s Stock Markets?

Marlon A. Layton

In recent years, financial economists have authored an influential series of articles that link strong minority shareholder protection—exemplified by private enforcement of securities regulations—to greater financial market development. Their findings, which suggest that transition economies seeking larger financial markets should reform their legal institutions so as to strengthen private enforcement, have practically become conventional wisdom, and provide support for those who argue that China needs to improve investors’ ability to sue listed companies in order to encourage growth in its financial markets. This Note argues, however, that in China’s current legal and political environment, various obstacles preclude private enforcement from playing a significant role in market regulation. A more viable strategy would be to strengthen public enforcement. It is more likely to be effective in China’s current environment, will improve investor protection, and has been shown to have positive effects on market development.

In recent years, financial economists have authored an influential series of articles that link strong minority shareholder protection—exemplified by private enforcement of securities regulations—to greater financial market development. Their findings, which suggest that transition economies seeking larger financial markets should reform their legal institutions so as to strengthen private enforcement, have practically become conventional wisdom, and provide support for those who argue that China needs to improve investors’ ability to sue listed companies in order to encourage growth in its financial markets. This Note argues, however, that in China’s current legal and political environment, various obstacles preclude private enforcement from playing a significant role in market regulation. A more viable strategy would be to strengthen public enforcement. It is more likely to be effective in China’s current environment, will improve investor protection, and has been shown to have positive effects on market development.

Using Structural Interdicts and the South African Human Rights Commission to Achieve Judicial Enforcement of Economic and Social Rights in South Africa

Mitra Ebadolahi

In 1996, South Africa’s transformative Constitution inspired human rights activists worldwide by incorporating justiciable economic and social rights (ESRs), including rights to housing, health care, food, water, social security, and basic education. Yet over the past twelve years, problems related to separation of powers considerations, vagueness concerns, and enforcement costs have impeded the South African judiciary’s efforts to enforce these crucial rights meaningfully. After surveying these obstacles, this Note offers a two-step proposal for change: increased use of the structural interdict remedy and an enhanced, collaborative role for the South African Human Rights Commission. Used in tandem, these measures can improve judicial enforcement of ESRs in South Africa—and perhaps set a concrete example for the rest of the world.

GI Joe? Coffee, Location, and Regulatory Accountability

Webster D. McBride

Geographical Indications (GIs)—product labels indicating places of origin when the quality of products are linked to their geographic origin—have long been a hotly-contested domain of international trade among nations in the developed West. Recently, a literature has emerged evaluating the prospects for developing countries’ use of GIs to bolster their agricultural sectors, but the empirical economics of GIs remain poorly understood. This Note approaches the issue from a different angle. The rhetoric that attends discussion of the economics of developing-nation GI implementations often makes reference to nonpecuniary, “softer” benefits of the GI phenomenon—in particular, its pro-local counterbalance to the multinational forces commonly perceived to dominate the global marketplace. This Note seeks to scrutinize this aspect of GIs’ impact on developing-world producers by assessing the political, institutional, and cultural dynamics that the international GI regime fosters. To ground my inquiry in an analytic framework, this Note employs metrics derived from the Global Administrative Law (GAL) project spearheaded by Benedict Kingsbury and Richard Stewart. Specifically, this Note asks whether the institutional dynamics that GI protection fosters among developing-world coffee farmers have the effect of promoting or obstructing regulatory accountability as measured by GAL’s three main principles: participation, transparency, and review. In theory, the implementation of a GI product specification should empower developing-world coffee producers by fostering their regulatory involvement and civic organization, facilitating collective management of their joint reputation, and offering access to mechanisms by which they might hold opportunistic actors accountable. This Note concludes, however, that the practical realities are unencouraging because states without preexisting and well-developed institutional infrastructures have difficulty corralling powerful actors seeking to exploit GIs for private benefit.

The Trial of Alberto Fujimori: Navigating the Show Trial Dilemma in Pursuit of Transitional Justice

Christina T. Prusak

Alberto Fujimori is the first democratically elected leader to be tried and convicted of human rights violations in the domestic courts of his own country. As satisfaction with foregoing prosecution and granting amnesty in exchange for more peaceful democratic transition has fallen increasingly out of favor, Fujimori’s trial comes at an opportune time to reevaluate the role of criminal trials in national reconciliation and transitional justice. In this Note, I argue that Fujimori’s human rights trial demonstrates that head-of-state trials, particularly domestic ones, can valuably contribute to larger transitional justice projects, despite their inherent limitations and challenges. Situating my analysis within the transitional justice and show trial literature, I analyze both procedurally and substantively how effectively Fujimori’s human rights trial has navigated its “constitutive paradox,” or tension between strict adherence to the rule of law and the extrajudicial objective of delivering a coherent moral message, inherent in transitional criminal proceedings. I conclude that the trial demonstrates that courts can effectively navigate these paradoxes, even in the midst of institutional weakness and societal cleavages. Moreover, I suggest that domestic tribunals may be particularly well suited to navigate the constitutive paradox of transitional trials.

Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions: Confronting Issues of Race and Dignity

Michael Pinard

This Article adds to the burgeoning literature that explores the various collateral consequences that attach to criminal convictions in the United States. These consequences include ineligibility for public and government-assisted housing, public benefits, and various forms of employment, as well as civic exclusions such as ineligibility for jury service and disenfranchisement. This Article argues that decisionmakers in the United States failed to foresee the collective impact of these consequences when they expanded them dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s. They also failed to account for the disproportionate impact these consequences would have on individuals and communities of color. To provide a broader context for studying the United States’ imposition of collateral consequences and the extent to which these consequences are rooted in race, this Article looks to England, Canada, and South Africa. These countries, which have criminal justice systems similar to the United States’ and have similar histories of disproportionately incarcerating people of color, have in recent years adopted criminal justice practices similar to those of the United States and have turned to increasingly punitive punishment schemes. This Article is the first to offer a detailed comparative examination of collateral consequences and finds that the consequences in the United States are harsher and more pervasive than the consequences in these other countries. It also shows that Canada and South Africa have articulated broad protections for the dignity interests of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals that are influenced by human rights notions of rights and privileges. Canada, in particular, has employed mechanisms to ease racial disparities in incarceration. Drawing lessons from these countries, this Article offers steps the United States should take to ease the legal burdens placed on individuals with criminal records, as well as to lessen the disproportionate impact these post-sentence consequences have on individual and communities of color.

Religious Arbitration and the New Multiculturalism: Negotiating Conflicting Legal Orders

Michael A. Helfand

This Article considers a trend toward what I have termed the “new multiculturalism,”
in which conflicts between law and religion are less about recognition
and symbolism and more about conflicting legal orders. Nothing typifies this trend
more than the increased visibility of religious arbitration, whereby religious groups
use current arbitration doctrine to adjudicate their disputes not in U.S. courts and
under U.S. law, but before religious courts and under religious law. This dynamic
has pushed the following question to the forefront of the multicultural agenda:
Under what circumstances should U.S. courts enforce arbitration awards issued by
religious courts in accordance with religious law? Indeed, with growing skepticism
regarding the oppressive potential of religious majorities, critics have questioned
whether religious arbitration has any place in a regime dedicated to individual liberties.
By contrast, this Article contends that current arbitration doctrine can meet
the challenges of the new multiculturalism. To do so, this Article makes two concrete
policy recommendations: (1) courts should redefine the scope of enforceability
of religious arbitration awards by limiting the application of public policy to vacate religious arbitration awards; and (2) courts should expand the application of
the unconscionability doctrine to void religious arbitration agreements.