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July 19, 2009

American Consumers to Lose Affordable Access to Justice through Nation's Largest Administrator of Consumer Arbitration Disputes

BusinessWire -- The National Arbitration Forum (FORUM), the largest U.S. administrator of consumer arbitrations, today announced that it will voluntarily cease to administer consumer arbitration disputes as of Friday, July 24, 2009, as part of a settlement agreement with the Minnesota Attorney General.

"The National Arbitration Forum remains committed to consumer arbitration as the best and most affordable option for consumers to resolve disputes quickly and efficiently. However, the FORUM lacks the necessary resources to defend against increasing challenges to arbitration on all fronts, including from state Attorneys General and the class action trial bar," said Forthright CEO Mike Kelly. "Mounting legal costs, a challenging economic climate, and increased legislative uncertainty surrounding the future of arbitration have prompted the FORUM to exit the consumer arbitration arena. At this time, the costs of providing consumer arbitration services far exceed the revenue generated. Until Congress resolves the legal and legislative uncertainty the cost is simply too high for users and providers of consumer arbitration."

Legislative proposals pending in both houses of Congress threaten to eliminate pre-dispute arbitration as an effective means of alternative dispute resolution. The Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 (S. 931/H.R. 1020) would invalidate every pre-dispute contractual arbitration agreement that is part of a consumer, financial or franchise dispute – in effect, every contract. The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (S. 512/H.R. 1237) would eliminate pre-dispute mandatory arbitration in all nursing home contracts. Legislation before the House to create a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (H.R. 3126) addresses arbitration and would give broad regulatory authority to restrict or eliminate all consumer arbitrations.

"The National Arbitration Forum provides fair and affordable access to justice to American consumers regardless of size of their claims. Without access to arbitration, consumer disputes will now be forced into an overcrowded and underfunded legal system, where many consumers who cannot afford attorneys will have to navigate complex court procedures," continued Kelly. "The consequence to American consumers is that there will be no meaningful alternative to costly and unpredictable litigation."

Notably, nothing in the Minnesota Attorney General’s complaint alleges that arbitration proceedings administered by the FORUM are unfair; the fairness of arbitration is ensured by the independence of the neutral arbitrators.

National Arbitration Forum consumer arbitration claims are decided by an independent panel of more than 1,600 highly experienced and impartial legal professionals, including former judges and experienced attorneys. FORUM neutrals are bound to a code of professional ethics, and decide cases outside of any influence from the FORUM or the other parties.

About the National Arbitration Forum (FORUM)
Founded in 1986, the National Arbitration Forum (FORUM) is a world leader in arbitration and mediation services. The FORUM provides accessible civil justice through the recruitment, selection, and management of a highly experienced and distinguished panel of over 1,600 former judges and seasoned lawyers. Now optimized by Forthright, the FORUM is the faster, lower cost, and superior alternative to litigation, that ensures parties receive the same outcomes they would in court.

Media Contact
Brian Kaminski