Winter 2021 Newsletter

February 9, 2021

Ted Mermin Named Center’s Executive Director

BREAKING NEWS: We are thrilled to announce that our own Ted Mermin has officially been named to the permanent post of Executive Director for the Center. Ted has been at the helm since the outset, beginning as Interim Executive Director with the Center’s founding in 2018. He has been working to build Berkeley’s consumer protection community for far longer, however, having taught the Law School’s first-ever consumer protection law course in 2008. In his two and a half brief years with the Center thus far, the number of consumer law courses offered here has more than doubled, Berkeley Law has become founder and host of at least eight regular statewide and national gatherings of consumer law experts and advocates, and numerous briefs submitted on behalf of low-income consumers have helped to shape the law for the better, to name just a few of his many accomplishments. We expect this trajectory will continue in the years ahead. Congratulations, Ted!

Center Comments on Theft of Unemployment Benefits From Thousands of Cardholders.

Thousands of Californians have lost desperately needed unemployment funds resulting from theft perpetrated by identity thieves – and, apparently, made possible by lax security on the prepaid cards distributed by Bank of America. California is one of only three U.S. states that does not offer a direct deposit option for unemployment benefits. Yet it appears that the bank did not employ readily available technology in protecting its customers’ cards.

A masked man analyzed the situation in an interview with CBS News.

Amicus Briefs

Last December, the Center filed a remarkable number of amicus briefs in one month. 

First, the Center joined a coalition of consumer advocates in an amicus brief filed in support of the Federal Trade Commission's ability to get money back to consumers who were defrauded in FTC v. AMG Capital Management

Then the Center filed anamicus brief in the California Supreme Court in Serova v. Sony, a case involving deceptive advertising, the anti-SLAPP statute, and allegedly fake Michael Jackson songs. 

And just before the holiday season, the Center filed an amicus briefon behalf of Professor Adam J. Levitin of Georgetown Law in People of the State of California, et al. v. The OCCto support a challenge to the OCC’s "valid-when-made" rule — a regulation that threatens to deal a devastating blow to state interest rates caps.

A Great Start for C-3PO

The members of the student-initiated legal services project (SLP), the Consumer Protection Public Policy Order (C-3PO), had a very successful first semester. Two teams submitted administrative comments: one to the CFPB on the potential pitfalls of using artificial intelligence to determine creditworthiness and the importance of increasing access to limited-English speakers, and one to the FTC on proposed changes to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Another group took on a research project for the Student Borrower Protection Center on whether the Dodd-Frank Act confers jurisdiction over for-profit colleges with respect to student loans, and they did such a great job that they were asked to continue this project into the spring. The Center is proud to be supervising such talented and dedicated 1Ls, and is looking forward to another fruitful semester.

State Consumer and Economic Justice Advocates Gather Virtually for Inaugural Conference

In November, advocates from across the nation who work for stronger consumer protections in state legislatures gathered for the first-ever Economic Justice Policy Advocates Conference. The gathering included workshops focused on developing policy ideas, roundtables dedicated to sharing common legislative obstacles and solutions, and a rousing keynote from Bill Bynum of HOPE. The Center organized and hosted the event, along with partners Michael Best of the National Consumer Law Center, Marisabel Torres of the Center for Responsible Lending, Ann Baddour of Texas Appleseed, Marceline White of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, and Christine Hines of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. Participants from Alaska to Kentucky to Maine said “I walked away inspired and empowered" and “I am amazed that after two days on Zoom I feel more energized than when I started.”

Center Celebrates Governor's Appointment of Two of Its Founding Supporters: Deputy Commission Suzanne Martindale and the Honorable Sharon Djemal

With raucous cheering and wild celebration, followed by a sense of despondency and emptiness, and then crowned again with more raucousness, the Center recently marked the transitions of two of its greatest supporters and pillars of the Berkeley Law consumer protection community: Suzanne Martindale and Sharon Djemal.

Suzanne, who has been Chair of the Center’s Advisory Committee since the Center was founded, was tapped by Governor Newsom to lead the new Division of Consumer Financial Protection at California’s state financial services agency. Suzanne has managed to pull off the trifecta that eluded even Elizabeth Warren: she helped generate the idea of turning the state financial regulator into a “CFPB for California”; she led the charge to get the bill passed; and now she is set to direct the Division of Consumer Financial Protection – the very entity that she worked so hard to bring into existence. In her decade of incomparable service at Consumers Union / Consumer Reports, and more recently as a lecturer on Student Loan Law at UC Berkeley, Suzanne has established herself as an invaluable advocate, mentor and teacher. Her departure for the agency she helped create is bittersweet, hugely deserved, and a great moment for all Californians.

Sharon Djemal has been appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Alameda County. The beloved director of EBCLC’s Consumer Justice Clinic for the past 6 years (and before that the supervisor of hundreds of students during 14 years in the Housing Practice), Sharon has for two decades been an institution at EBCLC and Berkeley Law. She conceived and drafted many successful consumer-focused bills that encompass everything from a law protecting tenants facing eviction proceedings, to a measure helping consumers reopen default judgments, to a provision keeping bank accounts from being cleaned out by unscrupulous debt collectors. She has been a remarkable mentor to a generation of law students and colleagues – and now will have the richly earned opportunity to continue that tradition from the other side of the bench.

To Senior Deputy Commissioner Martindale and Djudge Djemal, we say: Congratulations! We miss you already. And you will be stars.

Berkeley Law Alums Make their Mark at the Federal Trade Commission

Berkeley Law recently ran an outstanding article highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of a remarkable stream of Berkeley Law alums at the Federal Trade Commission in D.C. Most of these terrific attorneys were standouts in Consumer Protection Law when they were law students, and they have all helped to establish Berkeley Law as the place to go to prepare for a career in protecting consumers and promoting economic justice. As two of these alums put it, Berkeley Law has a “uniquely strong consumer law community” and consumer law program, and “no other school could have matched these opportunities.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Upcoming Events

A Conversation with Katie Porter

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm PT

Please join the CenterCAPSCJRI, and ACS for a conversation with U.S. Representative Katie Porter. 

Register hereSpace is limited.

A Conversation with Richard Cordray

Monday, March 8, 2021, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm PT

Save the date: Please mark your calendars for a conversation with inaugural CFPB director Richard Cordray, co-hosted by the Center and ACS.

Further details and webinar link coming soon.