On October 19, 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Community Financial Services Association of America, et al. v. CFPB (CFSA v. CFPB) invalidating the CFPB’s Payday, Vehicle-Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans rule (Small-Dollar Rule). The three-member panel decision calls into question the future viability of the CFPB by declaring unconstitutional the regulator’s funding mechanism.

In 2017, the CFSA and the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas sued the CFPB challenging the agency’s Small-Dollar Rule. In particular, the plaintiffs contended that by promulgating the rule, the Bureau acted arbitrarily and capriciously and exceeded its statutory authority. Moreover, the plaintiffs alleged that the CFPB was unconstitutionally structured because the CFPB director’s insulation from removal and the CFPB’s independent funding mechanism violates separation-of-powers principles.

While the panel found that “for the most part, Plaintiff’s claims miss their mark . . . one arrow . . . found its target: Congress’s decision to abdicate its appropriations power under the Constitution, i.e. to cede its power of the purse to the Bureau, violates the Constitution’s structural separation of powers.” Consequently, the court reversed a district court’s decision granting summary judgment in favor of the CFPB, and  vacated the Small-Dollar rule.

What Comes Next? The CFPB has the option of either requesting an en banc rehearing before the entire Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, or filing a certiorari petition before the United States Supreme Court. Of course, the immediate effect is that the Small-Dollar rule will continue to be held in abeyance for the foreseeable future. Moreover, the decision itself is only binding on federal courts within the Fifth Circuit, and does not immediately affect the Bureau’s broader activities. As such, we can expect that the CFPB may continue to operate normally, despite the injection of uncertainty regarding the validity of future actions it may take.

Nevertheless, the substance of the panel decision calls into question all CFPB rulemaking, supervisory, and enforcement activities. Indeed, the panel states that “[b]ecause the funding employed by the Bureau to promulgate the Payday Lending Rule was wholly drawn through the agency’s unconstitutional funding scheme, there is a linear nexus between the infirm provision (the Bureau’s funding mechanism) and the challenged action (promulgation of the rule). In other words, without its unconstitutional funding, the Bureau lacked any other means to promulgate the rule.” This reasoning is arguably applicable to all CFPB activities, and could pose a substantial challenge to the future viability of the CFPB absent Congressional action. We will continue to closely monitor this litigation.

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Photo of Christopher K. Friedman Christopher K. Friedman

Chris Friedman is a regulatory compliance attorney and litigator who focuses on helping consumer finance companies and small business lenders, as well as banks, fintech companies, and other participants in the financial services industry, address the challenges of operating in a highly regulated…

Chris Friedman is a regulatory compliance attorney and litigator who focuses on helping consumer finance companies and small business lenders, as well as banks, fintech companies, and other participants in the financial services industry, address the challenges of operating in a highly regulated sector. Chris focuses on both small business lenders and alternative business finance products and has helped non-bank small business lenders, banks who make small business loans, commercial credit counselors, lead generators, and others in the industry. He helps clients launch new products, conduct due diligence, engage in compliance reviews, evaluate litigation risk, and solve some of the unique legal problems faced by companies who work with small businesses. In that vein, Chris has written extensively about the upcoming rulemaking related to Dodd-Frank 1071, which will require data collection and reporting by companies making loans to certain small businesses.

Photo of Christy W. Hancock Christy W. Hancock

Christy Hancock’s practice is dedicated to financial services regulatory compliance and litigation. Her work with mortgage servicing and financial institution clients has given her a broad base of knowledge regarding laws affecting the mortgage servicing business, including bankruptcy and foreclosure best practices, payment…

Christy Hancock’s practice is dedicated to financial services regulatory compliance and litigation. Her work with mortgage servicing and financial institution clients has given her a broad base of knowledge regarding laws affecting the mortgage servicing business, including bankruptcy and foreclosure best practices, payment application, correspondence requirements, allowable fees, loan modifications, escrow requirements, and property preservation. In recent years, the majority of her practice has focused on advising large financial institutions on bankruptcy-related regulatory matters and large-scale remediation projects.

Photo of Jason R. Bushby Jason R. Bushby

Jason Bushby provides regulatory compliance, examination, enforcement, and litigation assistance to a range of financial services clients across the country. He serves as counsel to the American Bankers Association and general counsel to the Alabama Consumer Finance Association. He is also a frequent…

Jason Bushby provides regulatory compliance, examination, enforcement, and litigation assistance to a range of financial services clients across the country. He serves as counsel to the American Bankers Association and general counsel to the Alabama Consumer Finance Association. He is also a frequent speaker during webinars and trade association presentations on regulatory compliance issues.

Photo of Jonathan R. Kolodziej Jonathan R. Kolodziej

Jonathan Kolodziej represents all types of consumer financial service providers in regulatory compliance, examination and enforcement matters. Through this work, he has assisted bank and non-bank mortgage servicers, mortgage originators, debt collectors, depository institutions, credit card issuers, small dollar lenders, reverse mortgage companies…

Jonathan Kolodziej represents all types of consumer financial service providers in regulatory compliance, examination and enforcement matters. Through this work, he has assisted bank and non-bank mortgage servicers, mortgage originators, debt collectors, depository institutions, credit card issuers, small dollar lenders, reverse mortgage companies, investment firms, and various industry trade associations.

Photo of R. Aaron Chastain R. Aaron Chastain

Aaron Chastain represents financial services institutions, healthcare companies, and other businesses in a broad range of litigation and compliance-related matters. Aaron has advised student loan and mortgage loan originators and servicers in complying with the complex universe of regulation and state lien laws…

Aaron Chastain represents financial services institutions, healthcare companies, and other businesses in a broad range of litigation and compliance-related matters. Aaron has advised student loan and mortgage loan originators and servicers in complying with the complex universe of regulation and state lien laws, as well as in handling finance-related litigation, such as claims for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), wrongful foreclosure, violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), and violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). He has specific experience advising clients in the realms of student and mortgage lending, servicing, and operations.