New consumer-protection rules expected to take effect next year will unleash a flood of suits against banks, credit card firms and others, says a lawyer who has been battling for financial service clients for much of his career.

Alan Kaplinsky, head of Ballard Spahr's financial services group, said a proposal by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to drop a prohibition on class-action lawsuits in many credit card and banking contracts would spur plaintiffs’ lawyers to sue.

"We are going to see a huge increase in class actions," he said.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s proposal, released May 5, is expected to become law next year. It would ban credit card firms and others from requiring customers to use arbitration as a means to settle disputes, while also waiving their right to file class actions.

Kaplinsky pioneered arbitration agreements more than 10 years ago. They effectively eliminated class actions as a means for consumers to seek compensation from some financial services companies, who had complained for many years that plaintiffs lawyers used class actions to extract settlements in cases with little merit.

"Many of the class actions get filed by lawyers who are not real class-action lawyers," Kaplinsky said. "They are people who use class actions as leverage to extract a settlement."

The CFPB has a different point of view.

"The use of class-action waivers "has evolved to the point where it effectively functions as a kind of legal lockout," said bureau director Richard Cordray. “Companies simply insert these clauses into their contracts for consumer financial products or services and literally with the stroke of a pen are able to block any group of consumers form filing. . .class actions."

The bureau's proposal would permit companies to continue to offer arbitration. But they would no longer be able to bar customers from filing class actions.

The proposed rule, which is expected to become final in the second half of 2017, would apply only to agreements done after its enactment.

"A lot of companies will abandon arbitration and take it out of their agreements going forward if they are no longer able to obtain the benefit of avoiding class actions," Kaplinsky said.