Legislation Introduced in Both Houses Seeking to Curb Authority of the CFPB and Other Financial Regulators

On February 14, Senator Mike Rounds, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, introduced S. 365, which seeks to amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010 to bar the transfer of funds from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System to the CFPB. The bill also would require the CFPB to turn over all penalties it obtains to the United States Treasury. Sen. Rounds also reintroduced the “Taking Account of Institutions with Low Operation Risk (TAILOR) Act” (S. 366)–a bill intended to ease regulatory burden on local banks and credit unions. Specifically, the TAILOR Act would require financial regulators to take into consideration the risk profile and business models of individual financial institutions and tailor those regulations accordingly. The TAILOR Act also would require regulators–including the OCC, the Fed, the FDIC, the NCUA and the CFPB–to conduct a review of all regulations issued since the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank Act and revise any regulations that do not conform to the TAILOR Act’s requirements. In addition, the regulatory agencies would be required to provide an annual report to Congress outlining the steps they have taken to tailor their regulations.

On February 15, Senator David Perdue (R-Ga.), along with Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), have introduced legislation S. 387 to amend the Consumer Financial Protection Act so that the CFPB would be subject to the regular appropriations process.

Senator Ted Cruz and Representative John Ratcliffe also introduced legislation in their respective chambers that would abolish the CFPB. The pair of bills–S. 370  and H.R. 1031–would “eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by repealing title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010.” As explained by Senator Cruz in a joint press release, the proposed legislation would give “Congress the opportunity to free consumers and small businesses from the CFPB’s regulatory blockades and financial activism, which stunt economic growth.”

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House Financial Services Committee Chairman Called for End of CFPB; Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Responds

In a February 10 blog post, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling called for the abolition of the CFPB, and recommended that the President “immediately fire CFPB Director Richard Cordray.” Specifically, Rep. Hensarling expressed his belief that the CFPB is “arguably the most powerful, least accountable agency in U.S. history,” and his concern that the agency “defines its own powers and can launch investigations without cause, imposing virtually any fine or remedy, devoid of due process.” For these reasons, Rep. Hensarling  stated  he believes that “even with good policy, the CFPB would still be unconstitutional.” Ultimately, he argued that the CFPB “must be functionally terminated,” which he said could be achieved by ending the Bureau’s funding through a reconciliation bill.

The same day, Senate Banking Committee Ranking Member Sherrod Brown issued a statement responding to Rep. Hensarling’s proposal to abolish the Dodd-Frank Act. Senator Brown’s response noted, among other things, that “71 percent of Americans approve of the [CFPB]’s mission,” and that “[t]he Hensarling proposal would transform the Bureau from an effective watchdog into a toy poodle.”

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Special Alert: D.C. Circuit Grants Petition for Rehearing in CFPB v. PHH Corp.; Vacates Judgment Based on Bureau’s Unconstitutionality

On February 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted the CFPB’s petition for rehearing en banc of the October 2015 panel decision in CFPB v. PHH Corporation.  Among other things, the panel decision declared the Bureau’s single-Director structure unconstitutional and would have allowed the President to remove the CFPB’s Director at will rather than “for cause” as set forth in the Dodd-Frank Act.  As a result of the petition for rehearing being granted, the panel’s judgment is vacated and the full D.C. Circuit will hear PHH’s appeal of the $109 million penalty imposed by the CFPB under the anti-kickback provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).  Oral argument is scheduled for May 24, 2017.

As discussed in detail in our prior alert, the October panel decision unanimously concluded that the CFPB misinterpreted RESPA, violated due process by disregarding prior interpretations of the statute and applying its own interpretation retroactively, and failed to abide by RESPA’s three-year statute of limitations.  However, only two of the three judges on the panel concluded that the CFPB’s status as an independent agency headed by a single Director violated the separation of powers under Article II of the U.S. Constitution.  The third panel member, Judge Henderson, dissented from this portion of the opinion on the grounds that it was not necessary to reach the constitutional issue because the panel was already reversing the CFPB’s penalty on other grounds.

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If you have questions about the decision or other related issues, visit our Consumer Financial Protection Bureau practice for more information, or contact a BuckleySandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

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Meeting to Approve the Authorization and Oversight Plan of the Committee on Financial Services

On February 7, the House Financial Services Committee adopted, by a voice vote, its Authorization and Oversight Plan of the Committee on Financial Services for the 115th Congress. Among other things, the Oversight Plan identifies the Committee’s intention to focus on the following areas of oversight during the upcoming Congress: the Dodd-Frank Act, capital markets, housing, insurance, and monetary policy and trade. The document also describes anticipated actions relating to the oversight and authorization of agencies or programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction.

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OCC Proposes Final Revisions to Stress Test Information Collection

On February 2, the OCC requested comment on proposed revisions to an existing information collection entitled “Company-Run Annual Stress Test Reporting Template and Documentation for Covered Institutions with Total Consolidated Assets of $50 Billion or More Under the [Dodd-Frank Act].” The agency is also giving notice that it has sent the collection to the OMB for review. This information collection is related to the conduct of annual stress tests that the Dodd-Frank Act requires of certain financial companies, including national banks and federal savings associations. Comments on the current notice must be received by March 6, 2017.

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