Legal Forum Symposium: Frontiers of Consumer Protection

Friday, November 2, 2012 - 9:00am - 5:00pm
Rooms V and II (Keynote)

This Friday, November 2nd, the University of Chicago Legal Forum will present its annual topical Symposium.  This year, Symposium participants will chart the "Frontiers of Consumer Protection," discussing three unsettled areas of consumer law: consumer protection and privacy online, the "federalization" of consumer protection, and product recalls. In addition to commentary and insight on these topics, the Symposium offers to students an introduction to the process of legal scholarship and to the work of the Law School's student-edited journals.  The question at the heart of this year's Symposium is: how can a consumer-focused tort law regime developed by state courts in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries adapt to a set of consumer risks that is increasingly federal, financial, online, and technologically complex and unpredictable?

The panels are as follows:

Consumer Protection and Privacy Online, 9AM-10:15AM in Room V

(moderated by Professor Randal Picker)

  • Professor William McGeveran of the University of Minnesota Law School will address the problematic notion of "frictionless sharing"; may "share" your recent purchases with all of your Facebook or Twitter contacts without your affirmative consent?
  • Professor Felix Wu of Cardozo School of Law will attempt to reconcile notions of internet privacy with First Amendment protection.
  • Professor Katherine Strandburg of NYU School of Law will query whether "behavioral advertising" models like Google's (which targets advertising based on a user's search history) effectively satisfy consumer preferences.
  • Professor Bruce Boyden of Marquette Law School will argue that legal regimes protecting consumer privacy online have to remain adaptable to shifting subjective conceptions of privacy.

Federalization of Consumer Protection, 10:30 AM-11:45 AM, Room V

(moderated by Professor Marshall Shapo of Northwestern Law)

  • Professor Todd Henderson will survey the landscape of federal agencies and self-regulatory organizations whose purpose is to protect consumers of fincancial products to develop a working model for agency interaction that promotes consumer welfare.
  • Professor Catherine Sharkey of NYU School of Law will also examine the interaction of multiple agencies in the consumer protection space, particularly how to allocate Chevron deference when two agencies conflict.  She will then present two possible models for agency coordination.
  • Professor Sarah Cole of Ohio State University Moritz College of Law will examine the consequences produced by an increasingly federal regime for arbitration of consumer claims and will advocate for reforms aimed at promoting transparency and due process.
  • James Kole, former Chief of the Chicago Consumer Fraud Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General's Office, will reflect on his five-year term and argue that federal polices (such as promoting home-ownership) are sometimes at odds with state mandates to protect consumers.

Keynote: Richard Cordray, Director of the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; 12:15PM, Room II

(lunch provided)

Director Cordray is an alumnus of the Law School who clerked for Judge Robert Bork, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Justice Byron White.  He served as Treasurer and Attorney General of Ohio before President Obama appointed him to be the first Director of the new CFPB. 

Product Recalls, 1:45PM-3:00PM, Room V

(moderated by Adam Hoeflich of Bartlit Beck)

  • Professor Anita Bernstein of Brooklyn Law School will argue that the current products liability regime renders the concept of the "voluntary product recall" a misnomer and will propose reforms to improve consumer and manufacturer choice.
  • Professor Daniel Schwarcz of the University of Minnesota Law School will enumerate the lessons that the emerging federal consumer financial protection regime can learn from existing product recall and products liability law.
  • Professor Katharine Van Tassel of the University of Akron School of Law will explore the dangers to consumer health presented by the emerging use of nanotechnology, and will argue that our lack of coherent scientific understanding precludes effective identification of dangers and the need for recalls.

Reception, 3-5PM, Green Lounge

All events are open to the public.  For more information, please contact Phil Kappell at  For special assistance, please contact Rebecca Klaff at (773) 834-4326.

More information is available online:

M. Todd Henderson