Usually when Congress orders a government agency to study an issue, that's pretty much where it ends. A report eventually arrives on Capitol Hill, but lawmakers remain too divided to take action, which was precisely why they ordered a study in the first place.

The outcome figures to be far more consequential for a study now under way at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on the use of arbitration agreements by banks and other providers of consumer financial products. Because the research is likely to shape eventual regulations-with billions of dollars potentially at stake-financial institutions and consumer groups have been lobbying to influence its design.

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