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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

States have their say on CFPB funding

Courts Federal Issues State Issues CFPB Constitution State Attorney General Appellate Fifth Circuit Enforcement Payday Lending Payday Rule Funding Structure


Recently, a coalition of state attorneys general from 22 states, including the District of Columbia, filed an amicus brief supporting the CFPB’s petition for a writ of certiorari, which asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit erred in holding that the Bureau’s funding structure violates the Appropriations Clause of the Constitution. A separate coalition of 16 state attorneys general filed an amicus brief opposing the Bureau’s position and supporting the 5th Circuit’s decision, however these states also urged the Supreme Court to grant the Bureau’s petition to address whether the 5th Circuit’s conclusion was correct.

As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, the 5th Circuit’s October 19 holding found that although the Bureau spends money pursuant to a validly enacted statute, the structure violates the Appropriations Clause because (i) the Bureau obtains its funds from the Federal Reserve (not the Treasury); (ii) the agency maintains funds in a separate account; (iii) the Appropriations Committees do not have authority to review the agency’s expenditures; and (iv) the Bureau exercises broad authority over the economy. The case involves a challenge to the Bureau’s Payday Lending Rule, which prohibits lenders from attempting to withdraw payments for covered loans from consumers’ accounts after two consecutive withdrawal attempts have failed due to insufficient funds. As a result of the 5th Circuit’s decision, lenders’ obligation to comply with the rule (originally set for August 19, 2019, but repeatedly delayed) will be further delayed while the constitutional issue winds its way through the courts. The Bureau’s petition also asked the court to consider the 5th Circuit’s decision to vacate the Payday Lending Rule on the premise that it was promulgated at a time when the Bureau was receiving unconstitutional funding. (Covered by InfoBytes here.)

  • Amicus brief supporting CFPB’s position. The 22 states urged the Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit’s decision, arguing that the Bureau’s funding is lawful and that even if the Supreme Court were to find a constitutional defect in the funding scheme, vacating otherwise lawfully-promulgated regulations is neither justified nor compelled by law. “Left undisturbed, the court of appeals’ reasoning could jeopardize many of the CFPB’s actions from across its decade-long existence, to the detriment of both consumers protected by those actions and financial-services providers that rely on them to guide their conduct,” the states said. In their brief, the states argued, among other things, that the Supreme Court should grant the petition “to review at least the question of whether the court of appeals erred in vacating a regulation promulgated during a time when the CFPB received allegedly unconstitutional funding.” The states asserted that the decision “threatens substantial harm” to the states because the states and their residents “could stand to lose the benefits of the CFPB’s critical enforcement, regulatory, and informational functions if the decision [] stands and is interpreted to impair the CFPB’s ongoing operations.” With respect to questions related to the Bureau’s funding structure, the states claimed that it is altogether speculative as to whether the Bureau would have behaved differently if its funding had come from the Treasury rather than the Federal Reserve. Former Director Kraninger’s ratification and reissuance of the Payday Lending Rule “is strong evidence that the CFPB would have issued the same regulation once again, after any constitutional defect was corrected,” the states said.
  • Amicus brief opposing CFPB’s position. The 16 opposing states argued, however, that the Supreme Court should grant the Bureau’s petition to provide states with “certainty over their role” in regulating the financial system, and should affirm the 5th Circuit’s decision to “restore the CFPB’s accountability to the states.” In their brief, the states asked the Supreme Court “to resolve this issue quickly” and to “reinvigorate the protections of the Appropriations Clause, not weaken them.” The states maintained that if the Supreme Court does not quickly resolve the dispute, states “will have to litigate the same issue in other districts and circuits over and over,” and “[a]ny continuing confusion could seriously impede the growth of the consumer-financial services market at a time when the economy is already strained.” According to the brief, congressional oversight “ensures a level of state participation that ordinary administrative processes don’t allow.” In summary, the states’ position is that the 5th Circuit’s decision on the funding question is correct and that the court “was right to vacate a rule enacted without constitutional funding.”