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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB says ruling on funding structure doesn’t affect debt collector’s CID

Federal Issues CFPB Enforcement CID Debt Collection Constitution Appellate Fifth Circuit

Federal Issues

In December, the CFPB denied a petition by a debt collection agency to set aside a civil investigative demand (CID) issued last October. The company challenged the Bureau’s authority to issue the CID on the grounds that the agency’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional. The company’s argument relied on a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 19 (covered by a Buckley Special Alert), which found that the Bureau is unconstitutionally funded and vacated the CFPB’s Payday Lending Rule. The Bureau submitted a petition for a writ of certiorari in November asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the 5th Circuit decision (covered by InfoBytes here).

The debt collection agency and the CFPB held a “meet and confer” at the end of October, and the company argued that during the meet and confer the parties did not agree on two of the company’s objections: (i) the inadequate Notification of Purpose Pursuant to 12 C.F.R. §1080.5 contained in the CID; and (ii) the Bureau’s unconstitutional funding mechanism. The company filed a petition to set aside the CID, arguing that because the Bureau’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional, the Bureau lacks enforcement authority and the CID should be set aside in its entirety. The company claimed a similar nexus exists between the Bureau’s unconstitutional funding mechanism and the concrete harm suffered by the company. Just as the Payday Lending Rule was vacated by the 5th Circuit and set aside as unenforceable, “but for the Bureau’s unconstitutional spending, the CID would not have been issued,” the company said.

In rejecting the company’s arguments, the Bureau commented that it “has consistently taken the position that the administrative process … for petitioning to modify or set aside a CID is not the proper forum for raising and adjudicating challenges to the constitutionality of the Bureau’s statute.” In declining to set aside the CID on constitutional grounds, the Bureau wrote that should it later determine that it is necessary to obtain a court order compelling compliance with the CID, the company will have an opportunity to raise any constitutional arguments as a defense in district court.

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