Analysis and Commentary on Consumer Law
Explaining Why Dairy Won’t Share the Word “Milk”

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a battle over what products may carry the label “milk.” Colb proposes that the dairy industry opposes plant-based milks (such as soy milk or almond milk) from identifying their products using the word “milk” not because of any real risk of confusing consumers or market harm, but as a show of dominance in response to exposed vulnerability.

Protecting Sophisticated Investors From Sophisticated Con Artists

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel offers some suggestions to investors about how to avoid being scammed by sophisticated con artists. Frankel points out that even sophisticated investors sometimes fall victim to complex and enticing schemes and dissects a few examples of advertisements for such schemes to illustrate her points.

Is Amazon Violating the Antitrust Laws?

Guest columnist and UC Hastings adjunct professor Samuel R. Miller considers whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws if it is (as is alleged) misusing data it obtains from third-party transactions. Miller explains two potential theories of antitrust liability—the “essential facilities” doctrine and the “monopoly leveraging” theory—and discusses the extent to which Amazon might be liable under each theory.

The Future of the United States Monetary System

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel discusses the dangers of allowing non-government entities—such as Facebook and its affiliates—to issue a “basket” of crypto-currency. Frankel explains the importance of government regulation of currency and cautions that we should seek a clearer understanding of any technology or currency that can potentially destabilize the nation’s economy.

Is Tyson Foods “Less Meat” (But Not “Meatless”) Good for the Animals?

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on Tyson Foods’ recent entrance into the meat reduction market, selling so-called blended products that contain both meat and plants. Colb discusses some of the possible harms and benefits of Tyson’s decision from the perspective of an ethical vegan consumer.

The Hidden Trading Costs of Diversification, the Demise of Brokers Fiduciary Duties, and the Legalization of Brokers’ Fraud

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel explains how seemingly small hidden transaction fees can add up to a significant cost to the investor, particularly in long-term investments. Frankel explains that strictly literal interpretations of the regulations of broker-dealers lead to this unfair and costly result for investors and argues that society should focus on reinforcing brokers’ fiduciary duties of care (expertise) and loyalty (avoiding conflicts of interest).

The Other Side of “Order Without Law”

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel argues that while private ordering—that is, rules of behavior without the backup of law—works well in some situations, such as among diamond traders and farmers, it cannot work in other situations, including the financial system. Frankel provides a brief review of the literature on private ordering and explains why the financial system cannot work under this model, and indeed why applying it would cause dangerous trends and damaging consequences.

Wells Fargo Bank and the Glass-Steagall Act

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel comments on the renewed importance of the repealed Glass-Steagall Act which Congress passed after the failure of the financial system in the 1920s. Frankel argues that the alarming path of Wells Fargo Bank supports imposing regulations on banks similar to those levied by the Glass-Steagall Act.

Meat and Marriage: The Menace of Changing Definitions

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb considers the significance in policing “original” meanings of words, such as “meat” and “marriage.” She point out that in both contexts, arguments over the meaning of the word are rooted in strong feelings about status and do not truly reflect a concern with a risk of confusion.

States’ Regulation of Broker Dealers

BU Law emerita professor Tamar Frankel explains why state regulatory bodies should impose fiduciary duties on broker-dealers, whose services involve both “sales talk” and the managing of securities of investors who often lack knowledge or expertise of the transactions. Frankel reiterates points she made during testimony before the New Jersey Bureau of Securities and makes the case for the long-overdue regulation of broker-dealers as fiduciaries.

Could the Conservative Attack on the Administrative State be Good for Net Neutrality—and for Progressive Regulation More Generally?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf anticipates the possible next steps in the federal government’s lawsuit against California over the state’s new law mandating net neutrality. Dorf explains why, if conservative scholars and Supreme Court justices succeed in what seems to be their goal of weakening federal regulatory agencies, that could ironically be a boon to net neutrality and to government regulation more broadly.

FDA Plan to Censor “Milk” in Plant-Based Food Names May Violate the First Amendment

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why the FDA’s recent announcement that it intends to restrict the word “milk” on food labels may present First Amendment issues. Dorf points to the US Supreme Court’s decision last year in Matal v. Tam—which rejected the Patent and Trademark Office’s denial of a trademark to a band on the ground that the name was offensive—as evidence of the Court’s skepticism about the government making ideological judgments in the grant or denial of rights to exclusive use of a word.

Cash or Card

Guest columnists Antonio G. Sepulveda, Henrique Rangel, and Igor De Lazari comment on a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that a New York law prohibiting merchants from imposing a surcharge for payment by credit card constitutes a regulation of speech, and they compare the Court’s treatment of the law as regulating speech with Brazil’s historic treatment of similar laws in that country as protecting consumers.

Is Greyball Really Blackball? Uber Has a Private Tool That Blocks Government Officials and Other Riders

University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry discusses “Greyball,” a private tool Uber reportedly used to identify government inspectors and prevent them from hailing a ride. Ramasastry explains the dangers inherent in allowing minimally regulated private companies such as Uber to have such great power over integral services like transportation, and she calls for greater scrutiny into businesses with such significant market power.

A Preview of DIRECTV v. Imburgia: An Upcoming Case Before the Supreme Court Concerning Arbitration of Consumer Disputes

University of Illinois law professor and dean Vikram David Amar discusses an upcoming Supreme Court case in which the Court will consider to what extent consumer contracts that require disputes to be resolved by binding arbitration, rather than through formal litigation, are enforceable.

Personalized Pricing in the Air? Why Consumers Should Be Wary of a New Airline Pricing Proposal

University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry discusses a proposal tentatively approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation that would allow airlines to collect consumers’ personal data for the purpose of personalizing fare quotes. Ramasastry cautions that the proposal has significant privacy and discrimination risks and that we need more information, more transparency, and better safeguards before proceeding with it.

Riding with Strangers: Will the Shuddle Model Thrive and Should Parents Be Concerned?

University of Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry discusses a new company called Shuddle, which bills itself as an Uber-like car service for transporting children from place to place. Ramasastry describes some of the security and privacy issues Shuddle raises and compares it to other companies offering similar services.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more