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Adminization: Gatekeeping Consumer Contracts

50 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2017 Last revised: 27 Sep 2017

Yonathan A. Arbel

University of Alabama - School of Law

Date Written: August 8, 2017


Large companies and debt collectors frequently file unmeritorious claims against consumers. Recent high-profile actions brought by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) against JP Morgan, Citibank, and large debt collectors illustrate the breadth and importance of this phenomenon. Due to the limited financial power of individuals, consumers often do not defend against such baseless claims, which results in the entry of millions of default judgments every year. To combat this problem, policymakers and scholars have explored a variety of solutions that would make it easier for consumers to defend in court, but these prove ineffectual.

To solve the problem of unmeritorious claiming, this Article proposes a budget-neutral solution called “Adminization.” This novel approach uses an administrative agency, potentially the CFPB, as a gatekeeper to civil litigation which detects and sanctions the filing of baseless claims. The main task of the agency is to select a sample of cases, audit them, and—where needed—issue fines. To effectively focus the agency’s attention, the sampling of cases for audit could rely on machine-learning algorithms—the same ones used by credit card companies to monitor fraud today. The audit will use agency investigators to gather and corroborate information relevant to the debt claim, and where wrongdoing is found, the agency will use its powers to levy fines against abusive plaintiffs. Unlike the current system, Adminization will subject every plaintiff to the risk of thorough investigation and large fines, thus undercutting the financial incentive to engage in wrongful behavior. The importance of Adminization lies in its cost-effectiveness, practicality, and political feasibility relative to “participation-based” approaches that dominate the discussion today.

Keywords: Contracts, Consumer Law, Debt Collection, Artificial Intelligence, Ex-Ante Review, Audits in Litigation

Suggested Citation

Arbel, Yonathan A., Adminization: Gatekeeping Consumer Contracts (August 8, 2017). Vanderbilt Law Review, Forthcoming; U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3015569. Available at SSRN:

Yonathan A. Arbel (Contact Author)

University of Alabama - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 870382
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
United States

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