The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore October 5, 2015. In Hawkins, the bank sought to enforce spousal guarantees provided by the wives of the primary applicants. The wives countered by filing counterclaims under ECOA alleging that the guarantees were unenforceable and in violation of ECOA. The district court dismissed the ECOA claims, holding that the spouses were not applicants under ECOA and therefore had no standing to sue. The Eighth Circuit agreed, holding that a guarantor does not directly request credit and therefore does not apply for credit and is not a guarantor under the express definition of applicant provided by ECOA. In their Petition, the guarantors contended that the Eighth Circuit’s decision did not give proper deference to the Federal Reserve Board’s broad authority to prescribe regulations to effectuate the ECOA’s purpose.
The issues before the Court for consideration are: “(1) Whether “primarily and unconditionally liable” spousal guarantors are unambiguously excluded from being Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) “applicants” because they are not integrally part of “any aspect of a credit transaction”; and (2) whether the Federal Reserve Board has authority under the ECOA to include by regulation spousal guarantors as “applicants” to further the purposes of eliminating discrimination against married women.”
A joint amici brief has been filed in favor of the petitioner by the CFPB and other governmental interests and in favor of the respondent by the American Bankers Association and other trade associations.