On August 31, the CFPB filed a supplemental brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, arguing that the formal ratifications of then-Acting Director Mick Mulvaney and current Director Kathy Kraninger, paired with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Seila v. CFPB, are sufficient for the appellate court to enforce the CID previously issued against the law firm, and that “[s]etting aside the CID at this point would serve no valid purpose.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in 2017, the CFPB ordered Seila Law to comply with a CID seeking information about the firm’s business practices to determine whether it violated the CFPA, the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), or other federal consumer financial laws when providing debt-relief services or products, but the law firm refused to comply, arguing that the CID was invalid because the CFPB’s structure was unconstitutional. Last year, after the 9th Circuit upheld the CID (covered by InfoBytes here), Seila Law appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. Following the Supreme Court’s opinion in June—which held that the director’s for-cause removal provision was unconstitutional but was severable from the statute establishing the Bureau (covered by a Buckley Special Alert)—the Bureau noted that Kraninger formally ratified the agency’s decisions regarding the CID in July.
Among other things, the Bureau highlighted in its brief Seila Law’s argument “that the CID still should not be enforced because at the time this action commenced, the Supreme Court had not yet held invalid the removal provision.” The Bureau countered that any defect in the initiation of this action has been resolved because the CID, and the action to enforce it, “have now been formally and expressly ratified” by two Bureau officials removable at will by the President. The Bureau also asked the 9th Circuit to consider what may happen if the appellate court chooses to ignore the ratifications and rule in favor of Seila Law. According to the Bureau, such a result “could also, depending on the [c]ourt’s reasoning, be used to raise doubts about the validity of other actions the Bureau has taken over the past decade and that a fully accountable Director has now also ratified.” Should the 9th Circuit choose to set aside the CID, the appellate court would not only further delay a “legitimate law-enforcement investigation,” but also “undermine the very Article II authority that the Supreme Court so emphasized in deciding this case,” the Bureau argued.