The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) is a relatively new federal agency tasked with overseeing financial markets and regulating their impacts on everyday consumers. The CFPB “protects consumers from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices” and it “takes action against companies that break the law.”
The CFPB made the news recently for hitting Wells Fargo with a massive financial penalty; Wells Fargo defrauded its customers by setting up thousands of bogus bank accounts and lines of credit. The CFPB has also come down hard on student loan servicers and debt collectors, most recently slamming the federal student loan income-driven repayment system in a comprehensive report just a few months ago.
This week, however, the media has been reporting on a federal appeals court case involving the CFPB. Some media outlets erroneously declared that the court found that the CFPB was “unconstitutional.” Hysteria quickly followed. Does this mean the CFPB has been gutted? Will consumers and student loan borrowers no longer be protected? Is this a big win for big business over the little guy?
The short answer is no. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia simply ruled that one component of the CFPB’s structure is unconstitutional. Specifically, the Court struck down a rule that permitted the removal of the CFPB’s Director only if there was good cause. The Court found that this conferred too much power on the agency. Instead, the Director should be removed at the will of the President (who is the appointing authority). The Court has left intact all other elements of the CFPB’s structure and regulatory authority. Bottom line is that the CFPB remains unchanged, except that now the President can remove its Director more easily.
While the opponents of the CFPB are claiming victory, the reality is that this will not do much to curtail the CFPB’s powers. I do have some concerns that this ruling may politicize the CFPB a bit more than it otherwise would have been, since now a President can change the CFPB’s Director at will. But this isn’t much different from routine presidential appointing authority for many other federal agencies. And it does not impact the CFPB’s mission to protect consumers.
So ultimately, nothing to see here, folks. Carry on.
Have you had a student loan servicing problem? File a complaint with the CFPB.