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On August 14, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed without prejudice a lawsuit filed against the federal government aimed at blocking the Biden administration’s effort to provide debt relief to student borrowers (covered by InfoBytes here). U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington held that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they failed to plausibly demonstrate how the government’s plans would impact their efforts to recruit participants as qualified employers under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The court detailed that “[Plaintiffs] merely make vague and conclusory statements that some ‘undisclosed’ number of borrowers will receive credit toward loan forgiveness for some periods of forbearance” but “do not allege that any current employee received Adjustment credit.” Furthermore, any such “hypothetical injur[y]” would be traceable to “Plaintiffs’ own employees or prospective employees, not the Adjustment.” Because there was no standing, the court dismissed the complaint without prejudice and denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction as moot.
On August 11, a split U.S District Court of the Southern District of New York partially granted and partially denied a crypto platform’s (defendant) motion to dismiss most charges for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Four months after plaintiff opened an account with defendant, a hacker siphoned approximately $5 million worth of Bitcoin from the account. Between the time the hacker accessed the account and withdrew the Bitcoin, plaintiff contacted the platform about being locked out of the account, to which defendant responded that the password change email could be in plaintiff’s spam folder. The complaint alleged that had the company locked the account, plaintiff would still have access to their Bitcoin, and that the platform has a duty to protect its customers’ assets and accounts. Among other things, the complaint also alleged that the platform violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA), the New York General Business Law, and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.
In its motion to dismiss, defendant argued that Regulation E does not apply to the platform because the EFTA language does not explicitly cover cryptocurrency and only references denominations of the U.S. dollar. Although a separate case against the same defendant determined EFTA did apply to the platform since the statute’s “funds” reference could reasonably cover cryptocurrency (covered by InfoBytes here), the judge’s order focused on, “electronic fund transfer”. The court more closely considered the purpose of the account, expressing uncertainty as to whether it was for personal, family, or household purposes. The court found that the definition of an “account” under EFTA does not include plaintiff’s electronic fund transfer account which was established for investment purposes. In the previous case against the same defendant, the court held that the defendant deceived the users regarding its security measures, but the judge presiding over this case disagreed. The court cut the claims of misrepresentation finding that plaintiff failed to allege that the statements were false at the time they were made. The order denies two claims: (i) that the defendant misrepresented its security level; and (ii) that the defendant failed to meet EFTA requirements and its implementing Regulation E, because investment purposes accounts are precluded from the statute’s protections. The court granted the other four counts.
On August 11, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant defendants’ motion to dismiss, ruling that the plaintiff lacked standing. Plaintiff defaulted on a credit card debt that was purchased by one of the defendants and hired another defendant to collect said debt. The debt collector defendant sued plaintiff for the outstanding debt along with "statutory attorney fees,” but also appended an affidavit to the complaint asserting that no additional amounts were being pursued beyond the charge-off date, including attorney's fees. Plaintiff sued under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) in federal district court, claiming that the two declarations were in conflict and amounted to false, misleading, and deceptive communications.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that plaintiff did not show concrete harm for Article III standing, adding that plaintiff did not raise an FDCPA claim in the amended complaint regarding the underlying debt, and that plaintiff made conflicting statements. The court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
On appeal, the 7th Circuit affirmed the district court ruling, holding that plaintiff did not demonstrate harm to establish Article III standing, and that the complaint was properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in the district court. In doing so, the 7th Circuit noted that plaintiff’s decision to hire an attorney was insufficient to establish standing and that plaintiff made contradictory statements when he denied owing the debt during discovery, but on appeal contended he would have paid the debt but for defendants’ contradictory statements.
On August 8, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a cause of action under the TCPA, wherein the plaintiff alleged that the defendant sent her three mass marketing text messages that utilized “prerecorded voice[s]” even though there was no audible component. Under the TCPA, it is unlawful “to make any call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party) using…an artificial or prerecorded voice” to a cell phone. In affirming the dismissal, the 9th Circuit reasoned that the ordinary meaning of “voice” encompasses only audible sounds, and that the context of the statute confirmed the ordinary meaning. Specifically, it noted that Congress defined “caller identification information” as “information regarding the origination of a call made using a voice service or a text message sent using a text messaging service.” The court reasoned that if Congress intended “voice” to include inaudible text messages, the term “text message” would be surplusage and “Congress would have written the statute in a manner contrary to a basic canon of statutory interpretation.” The 9th Circuit went on to reject plaintiff’s remaining arguments, including plaintiff’s legislative history and FCC deference arguments because the statute was unambiguous.
On August 4, two nonprofit entities filed a lawsuit against the federal government aimed at blocking the Biden administration’s recent effort to provide debt relief to student borrowers. The administration’s efforts were implemented in response to the Supreme Court’s June 30 decision striking down the DOE’s student loan debt relief program that would have canceled between $10,000 and $20,000 in debt for certain student borrowers (covered by InfoBytes here). The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, targets the administration’s efforts to credit borrowers participating in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) plan and Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan by providing credit for periods when loans were in forbearance or deferment, which would affect more than 804,000 borrowers, forgiving approximately $39 billion in loan payments, according to the DOE.
As an initial matter, plaintiffs assert that they are injured by the administration’s actions because, as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, they benefit from the PSLF program by allowing them to “attract and retain borrower-employees who might otherwise choose higher-paying employment with non-qualifying employers in the private sector.” Thus, according to plaintiffs, cancellation of PSLF loans would reduce the incentive for borrowers to work at public service employers and the decision “unlawfully deprives [PSLF] employers of the full statutory benefit to which they are entitled under PSLF.”
Plaintiffs accuse the administration of putting the plan on an “accelerated schedule apparently designed to evade judicial review.” The plaintiffs assert that the DOE lacks authority to classify “non-payments as payments,” and that the statutes for the PSLF and IDR programs require actual payments to qualify for forgiveness under each plan. The suit brings four claims against the administration: (i) violation of the Appropriation Clause of the U.S. Constitution by canceling debt that Congress did not authorize; (ii) violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by issuing a final agency decision without appropriate statutory authority; (iii) violation of the APA by taking an arbitrary and capricious agency action by failing to “explain why [DOE] has changed its policy from not crediting non-payments during periods of loan forbearance to crediting such payments for purposes of PSLF and IDR forgiveness” and “entirely fail[ing] to consider the cost to taxpayers of crediting periods of forbearance toward PSLF and IDR forgiveness,” among other reasons; and (iv) violation of the APA by failing to undertake notice-and-comment procedures in implementing the changes.
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.”
On August 7, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a defendant’s motion to stay a lawsuit against an alleged predatory auto lender until the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of the CFPB’s funding in a separate lawsuit (CFSA Case; covered by InfoBytes here).
The CFPB and the New York Attorney General (AG) brought the complaint in January, accusing the lender of UDAAP and TILA violations that involved tricking consumers into loans financing used cars with high interest rates (typically above 22 percent) and add-on products they could not afford. The CFPB and AG alleged the dealers affiliated with the company (i) engaged in deceptive conduct; (ii) used high pressures sales tactics; (iii) pressured consumers into unaffordable auto loans; (iv) pressured family and friends to cosign the loans; (v) withheld prices of vehicles; and (vi) misrepresented key financial terms of the purchase, violating the CFPB, the Martin Act, and fraud and UDAP statutes, among other allegations.
In its decision, the district court reasoned that the stay awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision would (i) allow for clarity and guidance on the legal issues at hand and it may help the defendant avoid unnecessary litigation costs; and (ii) promote judicial efficiency and minimize the possibility of conflicts with other courts. Furthermore, the court determined that although it would be in the public interest to enforce consumer protection laws, the potential harm to the public caused by the stay is outweighed by the benefit to consumers “in proceeding in a streamlined fashion.” The order requires the parties to file a joint letter updating the court by the earlier of November 3 or one week after a major development in the CFSA case.
On August 7, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California entered an order denying a multinational technology company’s motion for summary judgment on claims that the company invaded consumers’ privacy by tracking the consumers’ browsing history in the company’s private browsing mode. After reviewing the company’s disclosed general terms of service and privacy notices and disclosures, the court found that the company never explicitly told users that it would be collecting their data while browsing in private mode. Without evidence that the company explicitly told users of this practice, the court concluded that it could not “find as a matter of law that users explicitly consented to the at-issue data collection,” and therefore, could not grant the company’s motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiffs, who are account holders (Class 1 for Incognito users and Class 2 for users of other private browsing modes), brought a class action suit against the company for the “surreptitious interception and collection of personal and sensitive user data” while the users were in a “private browsing mode.” Along with invasion of privacy, intrusion upon seclusion, and breach of contract, plaintiffs asserted violations of (i) the Federal Wiretap Act; (ii) The California Invasion of Privacy Act; (iii) Comprehensive Data Access and Fraud Act; and (iv) California’s Unfair Competition Law.
The court previously denied the defendant’s two motions to dismiss.
On July 31, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas entered an order granting in part and denying in part a motion for a preliminary injunction against the CFPB. The injunction, filed by a bank and two trade associations (collectively “plaintiffs”), aims to prevent the CFPB from enforcing its new final rule, implementing section 1071 of the CPA, which would require financial institutions to collect and provide to the Bureau data on lending to small businesses (covered by InfoBytes here). A 2022 5th Circuit ruling (covered by an Orrick Special Alert here) in a different suit, however, deemed the CFPB’s funding structure unconstitutional.
Plaintiffs urged the 5th Circuit to enjoin enforcement of the small business lending rule pending Supreme Court resolution of the constitutionality of the CFPB’s funding structure, estimating that the burden of complying with the final rule would be $100,000 per community bank, and “the nonrecoverable costs of complying with an invalid regulation constitute irreparable harm,” among other things. The court held that the plaintiff bank had standing because its injury is imminent and not speculative based on the effective date of the final rule, and the costs of preparation for compliance. The court also held that there is a “substantial likelihood” that the plaintiffs would prevail in asserting the final rule is invalid based on the claim that the Bureau’s funding is unconstitutional. The court agreed with plaintiffs’ claim that the costs of compliance with the final rule are “more than de minimis and thus constitute irreparable harm,” despite the CFPB’s argument that the costs of compliance would not be incurred now. Finally, the court held that the CFPB failed to show any evidence that a stay of the final rule will cause harm. While the court entered an injunction, it limited it to the plaintiffs and their members, declining to enter a nationwide injunction as requested by plaintiffs, because “generic reasons such as ‘nationwide scope’ or ‘need for uniformity’ without more are insufficient.”
The final rule is scheduled to go into effect on August 29.
On August 1, the SEC settled for $4.4 million with an investment adviser and entities he founded (collectively, the “respondents”) on charges that they breached both their duty of care and duty of loyalty to their client, an exchange traded fund (ETF), in violation of the Investment Advisers Act and the Investment Company Act. As alleged in the settlement, the respondents needed funds to settle a substantial private litigation judgment, and to secure the funds to do so, committed to keep the client’s security lending business with the company providing the financing to the respondents. However, there were better offers on better terms from other securities lenders that could have provided millions more in revenue to the client, and the respondents did not disclose this information to their client or to the client’s independent trustees. In addition to the civil penalties, without admitting or denying the findings, respondents agreed to various non-monetary penalties, including cease-and-desist orders, an associational bar for the investment adviser and censures for the respondent entities.