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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB files reply brief supporting its constitutional structure

Courts CFPB Constitution Supreme Court Funding Structure Fifth Circuit Appellate Payday Rule


On August 3, the CFPB filed a Reply Brief in support of its request to overturn the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Community Financial Services Association of America v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in which the 5th Circuit found that the CFPB’s funding structure violated the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause (covered by InfoBytes here, here, and here, and in a firm article here).

In its Reply Brief, the CFPB argues that Congress did not violate the Appropriations Clause by failing to specify a specific dollar amount to fund the CFPB because “the Appropriations Clause contains no dollar-amount requirement.” In support of that argument, the CFPB points to the Founders’ appropriation of funds for the Post Office and the National Mint where they did not decide the specific amounts of annual funding, the funding structure for the OCC and the Federal Reserve Board, and to current federal appropriations for Social Security payments and unemployment assistance.

The Bureau then argues that even if there was a specific dollar amount requirement, that requirement is nonetheless satisfied because “Congress fixed the CFPB’s maximum annual funding.” According to the Bureau, the fact that it has the discretion to ask for less than the maximum authorized is commonplace and “[t]o this day, Congress routinely appropriates sums ‘not to exceed’ a particular amount;’ that phrase appears more than 400 times in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022.”

The Bureau then aims to refute plaintiff’s arguments that the Appropriations Clause requires time-limited funding laws and imposes special rules for law enforcement agencies. The Bureau argues that the fact that the Constitution includes a specific restriction limiting Congress from funding the army for more than two years dictates that by negative implication there is no such prohibition of a standing appropriation for a different appropriation.

Finally, the Bureau argues that its combination of features is not as unique as CFSA contends, and that even if the Supreme Court ultimately finds the funding structure unconstitutional vacating the Payday Lending Rule is an inappropriate remedy because the 5th Circuit failed “to consider whether the defect it perceived could be cured by severing portions of Section 5497.”