Legal Challenges to the Consumer Financal Protection Bureau

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a federal government agency charged with consumer protection in the financial sector. It was developed and staffed as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, and came about as the result of the financial malfeasance that caused the global financial meltdown of 2008.

Two of the provisions of the agency removed much of the pressure other federal agencies face from lobbyists and politicians: agency funding comes from the Federal Reserve, rather than Congress, and the Director, once appointed by the President, can only be removed for cause.

A Federal Appeals court ruled that the structure of the CFPB was unconstitutional, as it gave the agency power to operate without the checks and balances of a three-part federal government system. They offered a solution: put the agency under the power of the President and the Executive Branch, and change the Director’s position to one that could be appointed and removed by the President. The agency is appealing the court decision.

Many critics of the Dodd-Frank Act and the CFPB have cited the power of the director to act autonomously. Pressure to change the structure of the bureau to a 3 or 5 person committee, such as is used in other consumer watchdog groups like the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission, exists in Congress. But these agencies are notorious for being bogged down in bureaucracy and for bending to the will of Congress, who holds their purse-strings.

The Dodd-Frank Act is also under pressure, and has been the target of several federal lawsuits brought by states against the government, claiming the law gave unchecked power to the government to oversee the financial services sector, and was unconstitutional. The several lawsuits have been struck down for lack of standing. The transition team of the newly elected president has vowed to dismantle Dodd-Frank as soon as possible.

For more information on agency litigation, please contact us.

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