Jeff Sovern

Professor of Law
School of Law
A.B., Columbia UniversityJ.D., Columbia University

Jeff Sovern is a Professor of Law at St. John’s University in New York City where he teaches Civil Procedure, Consumer Protection and Introduction to Law. The New York Times has called him "an expert in consumer law," a statement echoed by the Chicago Tribune, and Mother Jones.

Professor Sovern writes for three overlapping audiences. For the public, he has published numerous op-eds, including essays in The New York Times (here and here, and in DealBook, herehere and here), USA TodayThe Boston GlobeFortune,  the Christian Science Monitor, the American Banker (herehereherehere, and here), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (herehere, herehere, and here), The New York Daily News (here, and here),
The Conversation (here and here), The Hill (hereherehereherehere and here), CNN.com, PoliticoCommonwealthMorning Consult, and a variety of blogs. Professor Sovern can be heard on public radio's Academic Minute and discussing privacy issues during an hour-long interview on the University of California—Irvine’s radio show “Privacy Policy” initially broadcast on July 26, 2006. He has also published 42 letters in The New York Times. He has been quoted by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Reports, Newsday, Politico, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Daily News, National Law Journal, Consumer Reports, Mother Jones, Washington Examiner, The Oregonian, Law360.com, Bloomberg, NBC.com, The Huffington Post, the ABA Journal eReports, the Associated Press, The Center for Public Integrity and on CBS News.

Professor Sovern also writes for law students. He co-authored a casebook titled Consumer Law: Cases and Materials (4d ed. 2013 West) with Professors John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner, Dee Pridgen, and Christopher Peterson, with whom he also co-edited Selected Consumer Statutes (2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 editions). He previously co-authored the third edition of the casebook. His study of student laptop use during classes was published in the University of Louisville Law Review in 2013.

Finally, Professor Sovern writes for law professors, judges, lawyers and other academics interested in consumer issues. His scholarly writings have appeared in the Wisconsin Law Review, Fordham Law Review, Washington Law Review, William and Mary Law ReviewOhio State Law Journal (twice), University of California-Irvine Law ReviewMaryland Law ReviewSMU Law Review, The Business Lawyer, Federal Rules Decisions, the University of Pittsburgh Law Review (here and here), Missouri Law Review, McGeorge Law Review, DePaul Law Review, Advancing the Consumer Interest, the Annual Review of Banking Law, Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems, Journal of Consumer Affairs (twice), the Journal of Commercial and Consumer Law (twice), and the Encyclopedia of Housing. The federal Department of Education relied in part on an article Professor Sovern co-authored when it issued its 2016 student loan regulations barring the use of pre-dispute arbitration clauses. His writings have been referred to in numerous casebooks, treatises, law review articles, and court decisions. One of his articles was listed in Martha Minow’s Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide, 63 J. Legal Education 65 (2013) as an example of archetypal policy analysis. Professor Sovern also has two forthcoming articles in the Rutgers Law Review. He is a co-coordinator of the Consumer Law and Policy Blog, which can be read at www.clpblog.org, and the co-editor of the Consumer Law Abstracts eJournal for the Social Science Research Network, available at www.ssrn.com. The American Council on Consumer Interests awarded Professor Sovern the Russell A. Dixon Prize in 2002 and the 2010 Applied Consumer Economics Award. 

Sovern has spoken at the Pound Civil Justice Institute's Forum for State Appellate Court Judges, Georgetown Law School, the University of California-Irvine (twice), the Conference of the American Association of Law Schools (twice), the National Consumer Law Center’s Consumer Rights Litigation Conference, the University of Houston's Conference on Teaching Consumer Law (multiple times), the Practicing Law Institute's Consumer Financial Services Institute (three times), the Summer Judicial Seminar for New York State Judges, the Annual Conference of the American Council on Consumer Interests (three times), Rutgers Law School (twice), Hofstra Law School, the New York City Consumer Advocates Task Force, the New York City Consumer Debt Working Conference, and the Privacy Law Scholars Conference, among other events. He has also spoken at webinars conducted by the American Bar Association and the Ballard Spahr law firm. Professor Sovern has served as Reporter to the Eastern District Discovery Oversight Committee and on committees of the American and New York State Bar Associations and the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

Before joining the law faculty, Professor Sovern served as a law clerk to Judge Frank A. Kaufman of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland and practiced law in the litigation department of a major New York City law firm.  He holds A.B. and J.D. degrees from Columbia University.

Books

Selected Consumer Statutes (with Dee Pridgen & Christopher Peterson) (2015 West).

Consumer Law: Cases And Materials (with John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner, Dee Pridgen, & Christopher Peterson) (4th ed. 2013 Thomson/West).

Selected Consumer Statutes (with John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner, Dee Pridgen and Christopher Peterson) (2013 Thomson/West)

Selected Consumer Statutes (with John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner & Dee Pridgen) (2011 Thomson/West)

Selected Consumer Statutes (with John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner & Dee Pridgen) ( 2009 Thomson/West).

Consumer Law: Cases And Materials (with John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner & Dee Pridgen) (3d ed. 2007 Thomson/West).

Selected Consumer Statutes (with John A. Spanogle, Ralph J. Rohner & Dee Pridgen) (2007 Thomson/West)

Other Scholarly Publications

The Content of Consumer Law Classes III, Journal of Consumer and Commercial Law (Forthcoming)

Validation and Verification Vignettes: More Results from an Empirical Study of Consumer Understanding of Debt Collection Validation Notices (with Kate E. Walton & Nathan Frishberg), Rutgers Law Rev. (forthcoming)

Free-Market Failure: The Wells Fargo Arbitration Clause.  70 Rutgers Law Review. (forthcoming)

Are Validation Notices Valid? An Empirical Evaluation of Consumer Understanding of Dept Collection Validation Notices, 70 SMU L. REV. __ (with Kate Walton) (forthcoming)

"Whimsy Little Contracts" With Unexpected Consequences: An Empirical Analysis Of Consumer Understanding Of Arbitration Agreements (with Professors Kirgis, Greenberg, and Yuxiang Liu, 75 Maryland Law Review 1 (2015) .

Can Cost-Benefit Analysis Help Consumer Protection Laws? Or at Least Benefit Analysis? 4 UC Irvine Law Review 1241 (2014).

Written Notice of Cooling-Off Periods: A Forty-Year Natural Experiment in Illusory Consumer Protection And The Relative Effectiveness of Oral And Written Disclosures, 75 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 333 (2014). 

Fixing Consumer Protection Laws So Borrowers Understand Their Payment Obligations, 48 Journal of Consumer Affairs 17 (2014)

Law Student Laptop Use During Class for Non-Class Purposes: Temptation v. Incentives, 51 University of Louisville Law Review 483 (2013).

Encyclopedia entries on Cooling-off Periods and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act in Encyclopedia of Consumer Protection and Safety (ABC-CLIO)

Preventing Future Economic Crises Through Consumer Protection Law or How the Truth in Lending Act Failed the Subprime Borrowers, 71 Ohio State Law Journal 761 (2010), reprinted in the Practising Law Institute's 16th Annual Consumer Financial Services Institute Course Handbook (2011). Winner, American Council on Consumer Interests 2010 Applied Consumer Economics Award.

The Content of Consumer Law Classes II, 14 Journal of Consumer and Commercial Law No. 1 at 16 (2010)

The Coase Theorem and the Power to Increase Transaction Costs, 40 McGeorge Law Review 935 (2009)

The Content of Consumer Law Classes,12 Journal of Consumer and Commercial Law, 48 (2008)

Towards a New Theory of Consumer Protection: The Problem of Inflated Transaction Costs , 47 William & Mary Law Review 1635-1709 (2006)

Stopping Identity Theft,38 Journal of Consumer Affairs 233-243 (2004)

The Jewel of Their Souls: Preventing Identity Theft Through Loss Allocation Rules,64 University of Pittsburgh Law Review 343-406 (2003)

Protecting Privacy with Deceptive Trade Practices Legislation , 69 Fordham Law Review 1305-1357 (2001 )

Helping Consumers Protect Their Personal Information, 12 Advancing the Consumer Interest (American Council on Consumer Interests) No. 2 at 23-30 (2000).  Winner, Russell A. Dixon Prize.

Opting In, Opting Out, or No Options at All: The Fight for Control of Personal Information,74 Washington Law Review 1033-1118 (1999)

Implied Warranties of Quality in the Sale of New Homes in Encyclopedia of Housing 307-09 (1998 )

Good Will Adjustment Games: An Economic and Legal Analysis of Secret Warranty Regulation,  60 Missouri Law Review 323-414 (1995 )

Toward the Regulation of Secret Warranties, 7 Advancing the Consumer Interest (American Council on Consumer Interests ) No. 2 at 13-19 (1995)

Creating a Private Cause of Action under the New York Fair Debt Collection PracticesAct, 50 Record 345 (1995) (Principal Author of Committee Report)

Toward a Theory of Warranties in Sales of New Homes: Housing the Implied Warranty Advocates, Law and Economics Mavens, and Consumer Psychologists Under One Roof,1993 Wisconsin Law Review 13-103

Private Actions under Deceptive Trade Practices Acts: Reconsidering the FTC Act as Rule Model, 52 Ohio State Law Journal 437-467 (1991)

Contributed to Annual Surveys of Commercial Law by supplying comments on recent cases in 45 Business Lawyer 2341 (1990), 44 Business Lawyer 1515 (1989), 43 Business Lawyer 1305 (1988), 42 Business Lawyer 1269 (1987)

Paradigm and Paradox in New York Consumer Credit Law: After Holder in Due Course,6 Annual Review of Banking Law 119-180 (1987)

Report of the Discovery Oversight Committee of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York , reprinted in 2 Garfinkel, Current Problems in Federal Civil Practice 495-636 (1986) (with others)

Book Review of Lord’s Justice by Sheldon Engelmayer and Robert Wagman (1985), 35 DePaul Law Review 763-771 (1986)

Reconsidering Federal Civil Rule 9(b): Do We Need Particularized Pleading Requirements in Fraud Cases? 104 Federal Rules Decisions 143-180 (1985)

Enjoining Payment on a Letter of Credit in Bankruptcy: A Tempest in a Twistcap,38 Business Lawyer 21-33 (1982) (with Helen Davis Chaitman)

Allied Structural Steel v. Spannaus: Added Obligations, the Contract Clause, and Due Process,16 Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems 119-128 (1980)

Op-Eds and Other Media Appearances

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, leaving the public high and dry, New York Daily News, May 24, 2018

Consumers are biggest losers of Trump’s ongoing war on regulations, The Conversation, February 8, 2018, republished in the San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Houston Chronicle.  

Why we need to save the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (with Gina Calabrese and Ann Goldweber), The Conversation, November 15, 2017, republished in the San Francisco Chronicle,   CNBC.com, and the New York Observer, and chosen for inclusion in Former Vice-President Joe Biden’s podcast, Biden’s Briefing

Financial Choice Act Prioritizes Banks over Consumers, Morning Consult, July 25, 2017

How This New Rule Prevents Your Bank from Ripping You Off, Fortune.com, July 13, 2017

Would Wells scandal have come to light with a defanged CFPB?, American Banker, May 25, 2017  

Trump Faces Stark Choice: Protect Consumers or Banks, NY Times Dealbook, Jan. 18, 2017  

The Risks of Unfettered Capitalism, NY Times Dealbook, Aug. 15, 2016

Phantom Debts Plague Collections System, American Banker, July 28, 2016

What Can We Learn from Trump University's Sales Script, The Hill, July 8, 2016  

Keep Banks from Playing Tricks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 26, 2016       

The war on consumer protection, USA Today, March 16, 2016 

CFPB Arbitration Plan Provokes Dubious Industry Claims,  American Banker, Nov. 12, 2015

Arbitration Clauses for Credit Cards Cost Consumers, Boston Globe, May 25, 2015

Consumers often sign contracts they don't read or understand, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 3, 2015

When Consumers Give Up Their Right to Trial in Financial Disputes, NY Times Dealbook, January 30, 2015

Arbitration Tricks Consumers into Giving Up Their Rights, American Banker, January 22, 2015

Arbitration Clauses Trap Consumers with Fine Print , American Banker, December 2, 2014

Business Forum: Data brokers peddle information for their own selfish interests,  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 23, 2014

Consumer contracts should not be secrets (with Theresa Amato), The Hill Congress Blog, March 18, 2014

To Catch a Creditor, N.Y. Times, July 10, 2013 (with Ira Rheingold), reprinted in theDallas Morning News

Business Forum: Make sure consumers use protection rules, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, November 17, 2012

Consumer Protection is a Partisan Issue, The American Banker, October 24, 2012

Romney Will Put Business Before Consumers, The Hill, October 9, 2012

Help for the Perplexed Home Buyer, New York Times, July 18, 2012

Holding All the Cards, Commonweal, July 11, 2012

Business Forum: Subprime borrowers need more protection, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 12, 2012

Elizabeth Warren Changed the Country, The Hill Congress Blog, February 3, 2012

Don't Let Banking Industry Capture the CFPB, American Banker, October 12, 2011

Fair shake for Obama consumer protection nominee, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 13, 2011

Laptops in class: How distracting are they? Christian Science Monitor, June 6, 2011 reprinted in Yahoonews.com and the Alaska Dispatch

Don’t defund Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 12, 2011

What next? The Hill’s Congress Blog, October 21, 2010

Simple is better in consumer protection talks, The Hill (print edition), June 16, 2010

Why should car dealers be exempt? Politico, June 22, 2010

Warren would protect consumers, not the banks, The Hill Congress Blog, July 28, 2010

Consumer bureau is just the first step, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 17, 2010

Let States Set Consumer Protections, on CNN.com, May 18, 2010

Take Consumer Watchdog off the Fed's Leash: Sen. Chris Dodd's bill Will Weaken a Critical New Agency, New York Daily News, March 25, 2010

The Importance of CFPA Independence, The Hill (online only), March 15, 2010

Adjustable Mortgage a Pig in a Poke, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 24, 2010

Private Sector Commentary: New Credit Card Law Has Teeth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 30, 2009

U.S. Needs Agency to Watch Consumer Credit, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 18, 2008

Borrowers Must Understand Their Obligations, American Banker, May 13, 2009 

"Truth In Lending" Needs to be Updated, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 16, 2008

Consumer Lists Are Not So Innocent If You Can't Opt Out, Christian Science Monitor, July 20, 2007

Hour-long interview on the University of California—Irvine’s radio show “Privacy Policy,” July 26, 2006

The Missing Branch, The New York Times, July 25, 1999, § 14, reprinted in Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul (2005)

Letters published in the New York Times on December 30, 2015, May 6, 2015, August 9, 2014, June 10, 2014, March 6, 2014, November 16, 2013, June 1, 2013, March 9, 2013, November 13, 2012, August 25, 2012, August 15, 2012, July 8, 2012, June 2, 2012, May 21, 2012, December 31, 2011, August 31, 2011, March 30, 2011, February 13, 2010, August 27, 2009, May 11, 2009, February 2, 2009, March 29, 2007, December 18, 2006, June 1, 2006, June 23, 2005, October 31, 2004, April 17, 2003, October 12, 2002, June 25, 2002, December 20, 2001, October 2, 2001, March 27, 2001, July 4, 2000, April 24, 2000, October 26, 1999, July 5, 1999, April 20, 1999, February 28, 1999, June 17, 1998, January 4, 1998, July 17, 1997, November 20, 1996, and November 16, 1994.

Quoted by Bloomberg, NBC.com, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Reports, Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Daily News, Newsday, Washington Post, Mother Jones, Bloomberg, NBC.com, ABA Journal EReports, CBS News, The National Law Journal, The Oregonian, Law360.com, The Huffington Post, and the Associated Press, Consumer Reports, Washington Examiner, the Center for Public Integrity.

Internet Publications

Co-coordinator, Consumer Law and Policy Blog

Co-editor, LSN Consumer Law Abstracts, available at www.ssrn.com

Uncontrolled Lending to Consumers Spawned the Financial Crisis (with Professor Norman I. Silber of Hofstra), Baseline Scenario Blog, March 7, 2010

News Flash: Lenders Prefer Fragmented Regulation of the Consumer Financial Marketplace (with Professor Norman I. Silber of Hofstra Law School), Huffington Post, November 2, 2009

Could a Consumer Financial Protection Agency Have Prevented the Economic Crisis, on FinReg21

Restoring State Law, on New Deal 2.0 Blog

A Tale of Two Banksters, on New Deal 2.0 Blog

Advice to Newly Widowed Fathers of Young Children, reprinted on the web sites of parentsworld.com and singleparents.about.com.

Selected Speaking Engagements

"Teaching Consumer Law: What Has Been Included--What Should Be?" University of Houston Law Center's Teaching Consumer Law Conference (May 18, 2018)

The CFPB Under the trump Administration: Where is it now and where is it going? Practising Law Institute's Annual Consumer Financial Services Institute (March 26, 2018)

Validation and Verification Vignettes: More Results from an Empirical Study of Consumer Understanding of Debt Collection Validation Notices, Rutgers Law School Center for Corporate Law and Governance Workshop on Consumer Financial Protection Law (Feb. 2, 2018)

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the Trump administration, New York City Bar Association Committee on Consumer Affairs (Oct. 12, 2017)

What Concerns Do Experts Have for Future Debt Collection Practices after the Supreme Court's Decision in Henson v. Santander?  American Bankruptcy Institute podcast (June 19, 2017)

The CFPB’s Future, New York City Consumer Advocates Task Force (May 9, 2017)

What We Know and Don’t Know About Consumer Arbitration, University of California Irvine Law School's Civil Justice Institute Symposium on Practitioners and Scholars in Dialogue: What Do We Know About the Civil Justice System (April 28, 2017)

Free-Market Economics and Arbitration Clauses in Consumer Contracts: The Wells Fargo Example, Rutgers Law School symposium on Resolving the Arbitration Dispute in Today's Legal Landscape,  Panel on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rulemaking and Consumer Arbitration Clauses (April 7, 2017)

The 2016 presidential election’s effect on consumer financial services, Ballard Spahr webinar (February 8, 2017) 

Consumer Protection in a Trump Administration, American Bar Association Section on Antitrust Law webinar (January17, 2017)

Whimsy Little Contracts, New York City Bar Association Committee on Consumer Affairs (October 26, 2016)

Are FDCPA Validation Notices Valid? University of Houston’s Law Center Conference Teaching Consumer Law (May 20, 2016)

Whimsy Little Contracts, American Council on Consumer Interests Annual Conference, 2015

Whimsy Little Contracts, Pound Civil Justice Institute's Forum for State Appellate Court Judges, 2014

Increasing the Prominence of Consumer Law and Influencing Policy, University of Houston Law Center Conference on Teaching Consumer Law (May 30, 2014)

Grading Fine Print Georgetown Law School conference on consumer law, titled "Making the Fine Print Fair" April 4, 2014

Can Cost-Benefit Analysis Help Consumer Protection Laws? University of California-Irvine Law School symposium on cost- benefit analysis (2013)

Practising Law Institute’s 18th Annual Consumer Financial Services Institute (2013)

Written Notice of Cooling-Off Periods: A Forty-Year Natural Experiment in Illusory Consumer Protection and the Relative Effectiveness of Oral and Written Disclosures, American Council on Consumer Interests Annual Conference (2013).

Can Cost-Benefit Analysis Help Consumer Protection Laws?, University of California-Irvine symposium on cost-benefit analysis (2013)

Disclosure in Consumer Credit, University of Houston Law Center Conference on Teaching Consumer Law (2012)

Practising Law Institute’s 16th Annual Consumer Financial Services Institute (February – March 2011)

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency/Bureau, University of Houston Law Center Conference on Teaching Consumer Law (2010)

Preventing Future Economic Crises through Consumer Protection Law, Annual Conference of the American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI), held in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (2010)

Why the Truth in Lending Act Disclosures Prescribed by the Fed Failed to Prevent the Subprime Crisis, Association of American Law Schools’ Annual Meeting (2010)

Program on Consumer Debt, Summer Judicial Seminars for New York State Judges (July-August 2009)

Second Annual Privacy Law Scholars Conference presented by George Washington University and University of California at Berkeley Law Schools at Berkeley (2009)

New York City Consumer Debt Working Conference presented by the Feerick Center for Social Justice and the New York County Lawyers Association Justice Center at Fordham University School of Law (2008)

First Annual Privacy Law Scholars Conference presented by George Washington University and University of California at Berkeley Law Schools at GWU (2008)

Teaching Consumer Law: The Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How presented by the Center for Consumer Law at the University of Houston Law Center (2008)

Consumer Rights Litigation Conference presented by the National Consumer Law Center (2007)

Teaching Consumer Law: The Past, Present and Future of Consumer Law presented by the Center for Consumer Law at the University of Houston Law Center (2006)

Panel on Privacy at the Annual Conference presented by the Association of American Law Schools (2001)