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Professor Melissa B. Jacoby's essay pays homage to Stewart Macaulay's classic study of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a U.S. federal consumer protection law that, according to Macaulay, was virtually unknown to the lawyers whose clients needed it the most. The moral of Macaulay's study is that even good consumer protection laws on the books often fail to deliver in action for complex cultural, institutional, and economic reasons. Yet reducing Professor Jacoby's essay to this very important moral undersells its contribution. A fragmented infrastructure for legal service delivery of the sort she describes does not merely fail consumers more often than it should, but can frustrate economic policy, delay crisis response, and undermine financial stability. By implication, rationalizing legal service provision is key to the success of both crisis management and financial reform.

In this Comment, I first situate household debt in the context of financial stability. Second, I highlight elements of Professor Jacoby's argument most relevant to financial stability concerns. Third, I sketch out several potential implications of her contribution for crisis response and financial regulation.

Publication Citation

38 Fordham Urb. L.J. 767 (2010-2011)