When people think of the Supreme Court, they think of cases about women’s rights, abortion rights, health care, immigration, gay rights, race and discrimination, the death penalty, the right to privacy, climate change, the environment and civil rights. That’s because they are important, controversial and, often, politically charged cases widely covered by the media.
However, there is another large category of important Supreme Court cases that impact the livelihoods, wealth, financial well-being and quality of life of every American: economic and financial cases that rarely get any mention beyond legal publications, much less mainstream media coverage.
Every year, the Supreme Court decides many critically important cases relating to all of those issues. The upcoming term of the Supreme Court starting this October will be no different, except that a new justice may be deciding those cases. That potential justice, Brett Kavanaugh, has a record on business and financial cases that is hostile to the economic interests of working Americans, particularly if they are ripped off or injured by corporations.
There is little doubt that if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, he will tilt the scales of justice in favor of corporations over consumers, workers, investors and retirees, while gutting the financial regulatory agencies’ ability to protect the public from scammers, predators and crooks.
The bottom line is that anyone who has a savings or checking account, credit card, debit card, mortgage, student loan, car loan, retirement plan, personal loan, college savings fund, publicly traded stock or any other financial product or service — meaning every single American — has to care about the Supreme Court’s momentous decisions that affect every one of those critical financial issues for every American family. Put differently, if you care about what’s in your wallet, you should be very worried if judge Kavanaugh becomes Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.
A new Better Markets report we co-authored lays out the high stakes all Americans have in the next Justice of the Court. We analyze elements of Judge Kavanaugh’s past rulings and writings, finding several disturbing examples of his bias against ordinary consumers. For example, Judge Kavanaugh has:
- Called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “a significant threat to individual liberty” and attempted to gut the agency by ruling that its structure was unconstitutional (a decision later overturned by the full D.C. Circuit);
- Narrowly interpreted the anti-fraud provisions of the securities laws and even faulted the Securities and Exchange Commission for aggressively pursuing lawbreakers;
- Undermined financial reform protections for Main Street;
- Made plain his desire to abolish the legal principle requiring courts to show deference to a government agency’s interpretation of the law; and
- Supported the establishment of more legal obstacles that limit the ability of agencies to broadly protect the public interest through major rules.
The report also looks at critically important Supreme Court cases coming this year that will impact the financial well-being of every American. If confirmed, Judge Kavanaugh will be seated in time to rule on issues in ways that:
- Force more injured consumers into mandatory arbitration;
- Cut back the states’ role in protecting consumers;
- Eliminate anti-fraud protections for investors; and
- Limit the remedies available in class action litigation.
Anyone with a wallet should be very worried about Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. His record of one-sided, pro-corporation, anti-consumer rulings will likely be the model for his decisions in upcoming cases that will affect every American.
Dennis M. Kelleher is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Better Markets, Inc., an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes the public interest in economics, finance and financial reform. Stephen W. Hall is the Legal Director and Securities Specialist for Better Markets. This commentary is excerpted from their new report, Judge Kavanaugh: Good for Corporations, Bad for Your Wallet.