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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB Orders Law Firm to Comply with CID

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Consumer Finance CFPB Single-Director Structure Seila Law

Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

On April 10, the CFPB issued a Decision and Order denying a law firm’s petition to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) asking for information about the firm’s business practices to determine whether debt relief providers or lead generators engaged in “unlawful acts or practices in the advertising, marketing, or sale of debt relief services or products, including but not limited to debt negotiation, debit elimination, debt settlement, and credit counseling.” Specifically, the Bureau determined that none of the objections raised by the law firm warrant setting aside or modifying the CID.

On March 19, the firm filed a petition to set aside the CID (issued on February 27, 2017), offering four key reasons why the CID should not be enforced:

  • the CFPB’s structure is unconstitutional and the CID should be stayed pending the PHH Corp. v. CFPB case;
  • the CFPB lacks supervisory and enforcement authority with respect to the law firm;
  • the CID’s requests are “excessively vague and overly broad”; and
  • the CID was issued after the Bureau failed to prevail on a contempt order before the district court.

In responding to these arguments, the CFPB took the following positions. First, the Bureau contended that the law firm had waived its objection to the Bureau’s authority by failing to raise it during the meet-and-confer process with Bureau enforcement counsel. Second, the CFPB noted that under the Consumer Financial Protection Act, the Bureau has the authority to issue CIDs to “any person” who may have relevant information. Third, the Bureau disagreed that the requests in the CID were “excessively vague and overly broad,” and stated that the time to have raised this challenge was during the meet-and-confer process. However, the Bureau stated it is willing to engage in further discussions to determine if modifications may be appropriate. Fourth, the Bureau determined that the mere fact that the law firm in question was never held in contempt by a court of law does not preclude the CFPB “from issuing a CID or investigating whether it violated federal consumer financial law.”  Pursuant to the Decision and Order, the law firm is required to produce documents and provide answers to interrogatories within 10 calendar days.

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