Twenty-five years ago, some of the country’s biggest banks and corporations came up with a new way of handling consumer allegations of wrongdoing. Instead of letting an impartial judge or jury decide, they would use the fine print of take-it-or-leave-it contracts to shunt cases over to private arbitrators — firms chosen by (and dependent on the future patronage of) the companies being complained against. For good measure, each aggrieved consumer would typically be required to go it alone, even if hundreds or thousands of others had been affected by the same misconduct. Known as forced arbitration, this system of bought-and-paid-for justice has worked out very well for what The New York Times calls the “Wall Street-led coalition of credit card companies and retailers” that designed it. The great majority of injured consumers, once they find themselves locked out of court, simply drop their complaints.