District court advances CFPB action against bank for alleged TILA, CFPA violations
On December 1, the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island denied a national bank’s motion to dismiss a CFPB lawsuit alleging violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA) and TILA, rejecting the bank’s arguments that, among other things, the CFPB’s claims were time-barred and that the case cannot proceed because the CFPB’s structure violates constitutional separation-of-powers identified in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the CFPB filed suit in January against the bank alleging, among other things, that when servicing credit card accounts, the bank failed to properly (i) manage consumer billing disputes for unauthorized card use and billing errors; (ii) credit refunds to consumer accounts resulting from such disputes; or (iii) provide credit counseling disclosures to consumers. According to the CFPB, the alleged conduct “began in 2010 or earlier and ended, depending on the violation, sometime in 2015 or 2016.” The CFPB also noted that the parties signed agreements tolling all relevant statutes of limitations from February 23, 2017, until January 31, 2020. The bank argued that the CFPB’s claims are governed by section 1640 of TILA with its one-year statute of limitations, but the CFPB countered that its claims were brought pursuant to section 1607 of TILA, which provides a “three-year discovery period.”
In denying the bank’s motion to dismiss, the court concluded that the tolling agreements were valid and that the three-year limit under section 1607 applied because “plain language indicates that § 1640 only governs cases brought by individuals or state attorneys general,” whereas § 1607 “provides the cause of action for federal enforcement agencies such as the CFPB.” Furthermore, the court determined that because § 1607 “does not contain a statute of limitations,” and “instead stat[es] that cases brought by the CFPB ‘shall be enforced under. . . subtitle E of the [CFPA],’ the action is governed by subtitle E’s requirement that cases be brought within three years of discovery by the CFPB.” The court also dismissed the bank’s constitutional claims, ruling, among other things, that the argument is moot following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Seila, which held that the director’s for-cause removal provision was unconstitutional but was severable from the statute establishing the CFPB (covered by a Buckley Special Alert).