The Frederick Fisher Memorial Program is held in conjunction with the American Bar Association's Consumer Financial Services Committee at the spring meeting of the Business Law Section. The Program format consists of a panel debate among
leading consumer advocates, regulators and finance industry representatives on a topical issue in consumer finance. The lively, informative presentation is moderated by a CCFL member.
The program is open to CCFL members and registrants at the ABA Business Law Section Spring meeting.
The Fisher Memorial Program 2011. April 15, 2:30 - 4:30 at the Westin Copley Place Hotel, Essex South Ballroom, 3rd Floor
The Paternalistic Approach to Consumer Finance: Does Government Know Best?
This program will look at the role of government in protecting consumers and managing risk in the financial markets. Through a confluence of political and economic challenges, there has been a fundamental shift over the last year in consumer behaviors, resulting in the perceived need for increased regulation of the consumer financial industry. The underlying assumption is that the industry has failed in self-regulating and protecting consumers, requiring the oversight of an independent body – in this case the government – to limit abuses in the consumer economic sector. This program will examine the benefits and risks associated with governmental regulation in the consumer finance market, it's impact on the availability and cost of credit, potential unintended consequences and the implications of this new age of consumerism.
Related issues include:
- Should we regulate the availability of products – perhaps you need a certain credit score to qualify; are certain products inherently unfair, abusive and against public policy (e.g., pay day lenders)
- Is there merit in "crash testing" financial services products, providing ratings that alert consumers to risks, or requiring a borrower's "license" to obtain certain financing products (e.g., you've demonstrated a level of sophistication that allows you to access more complicated financial products)
- Is it critical to maximize consumer well being – suitability; responsibility of lenders
- Can you really regulate consumer behaviors – why do people behave so differently; behavioral consumer practice theory: studies show that consumer behave in a predetermined way, such that it's justifiable to set out certain options to maximize their self interest
- Credit scoring models/risk based financing – what's really in the "black box" – does it really support discriminatory practices; should good credits subsidize bad credits
- Free Market activity v. regulatory oversight – or is there something in between?
- Is credit availability really a concern? Is limiting consumers' options not a bad thing?
- Is there a role for nongovernmental oversight, as a form of checks and balances? Independent oversight and review, potentially from trade associations
- How far does this paternalistic approach extend? Products themselves? Terms of such products? Interest rates?
- What's the impact on government regulation on the markets? Are we helping or hindering the recovery?
Frederick Fisher gained international fame as a young associate at Hale & Dorr L.L.P in Boston when his name was unjustly besmirched by Senator Joe McCarthy in the first nationally televised hearings by a congressional committee. It was this attack that triggered the famous "Have you no shame, sir" speech in defense of Fred by Hale and Dorr partner, Joe Welch, who was representing the United States Army in the hearings. This speech on national television resulted in resounding applause by the Senate Gallery and was the catalyst for ending McCarthy's reign of terror and his censure by the full United States Senate a few months later.
Fisher spent his entire professional career at Hale & Dorr where one of early mentors was his senior partner, Reginald Heber Smith, the father of Legal Aid. Fred was a member and officer of the Governing Committee of the Conference for many years and was Chairman of the Conference at the time of his sudden death in the late 1980s. His warm and colorful personality made him much loved by the members of the Governing Committee.