Marnee Banks of KXLH notes today that Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill is seeking relief from the Montana Supreme Court because he wants to invalidate a contract he signed with an investment firm which required mandatory arbitration.
Hill is arguing that should not be held responsible for signing the contract:
The securities purchasers assert that their acceptance of the pre-printed broker-dealer account agreement constituted a contract of adhesion which should not be enforced because it was unconscionable, not within their reasonable expectations and caused them to unknowingly waive their constitutional rights to a jury trial.
That’s an intriguing line of argument. Hill is asserting that because the contract was substandard in its construction he should not be held to its requirements. In other words, he didn’t bother to read the contract—or was so blinded by the promise of easy money that he simply didn’t care. In fact, Hill signed off on arbitration in this case eight separate times.
That’s certainly a ringing endorsement of his ability to act as governor. If he signs a poorly-worded bill into law, will be sue months later to have his own signature overturned?
Now, the interesting thing is that Hill is right: corporations do often use mandatory arbitration to exploit consumers. But Hill is no ordinary consumer—he is a gubernatorial candidate running on his experience as a business leader, and one who claims a law degree as well. Even though his law school is an unaccredited institution, I presume that the notion that reading a contract before signing one was discussed at least once.
The First Judicial District Court ordered Hill to comply with the arbitration requirement, leading to his appeal to the Supreme Court.
Of course, Hill does seem to believe that regular people aren’t quite as entitled to government oversight as he is.
On his campaign page, Hill asserts that government regulation is stifling economic growth here in Montana:
There’s no doubt that some regulation is necessary to ensure workplace safety, preserve the environment, or protect consumers. However, it’s important to remember that each layer of regulation comes with a cost that is borne by business and ultimately consumers. At some point, too much regulation would completely stifle economic activity.
Gregg Smith, over at the Electric City Weblog, had this to say about Hill just the other day:
He said something that really resonated with me: The people of Montana can and will succeed if we just get government out of the way. He cited the judicial system as one problem area, and the regulatory environment as another.
And yet, there’s Hill—an experienced business leader and former member of Congress—asking the state to invalidate a contract he signed before losing money in what he calls a scam.
Hill’s suit ably demonstrates the irrationality of the anti-regulation mania that is so popular among Republicans. The fact is that government does have a crucial role in ensuring fair treatment of consumers. That role actually improves the economy, by reassuring people that it’s safe to invest their money, that those who break the law will be punished.
For all the talk about “getting government out of the way,” candidate Hill is making an awfully good case for the role of both government oversight and litigation. I hope Hill wins his suit—and then takes the opportunity for some real introspection about what he really thinks about the role of government.
As a postscript, it’s certainly worth noting that Hill has so much faith in doing business in Montana that he registered the LLCs used for this transaction in Delaware, rather than back here in Montana. Disappointing.