March 31 marked the deadline for the CFPB to file its brief in response to PHH Corporation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit’s en banc review of the CFPB’s enforcement action against PHH for alleged violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). In fighting the penalty, PHH called into question the Bureau’s constitutionality and in October 2016, a panel of the D.C. Circuit concluded both that the CFPB misinterpreted RESPA, and also that its single-Director structure violated the constitutional separation of powers. On February 16 of this year, however, the D.C. Circuit granted the CFPB’s petition for rehearing en banc of the October 2015 panel decision. Oral argument is scheduled for May 24. This Court has allocated 30 minutes per side for the argument and, on Monday, the DOJ filed an unopposed motion seeking ten minutes of argument time for the United States as well.
CFPB’s Brief. On March 31, the CFPB filed its brief for the en banc rehearing in PHH Corp. v CFPB urging the D.C. Circuit to uphold the constitutionality of the Bureau’s single-director, independent-agency structure. According to the CFPB, neither the Bureau’s current single-director arrangement, nor the “for-cause” restriction on the President’s removal powers prevents the Executive branch from ensuring that the nation’s laws are implemented. Specifically, the brief explains that “[t]he President has no less control over a single-director agency than he does over a multi-member commission.” The brief also sets forth the Bureau’s position that, even “[i]f this Court determines that the Bureau’s structure is unconstitutional,” the appropriate remedy is not to invalidate the agency in its entirety, but rather to “sever the for-cause removal provision” of the Dodd-Frank Act (the Act), thereby allowing the President to remove the Bureau’s director for any reason.
Amicus Curiae in Support of the CFPB. Also filed on March 31 were seven amicus curiae briefs, each of which offered arguments, both legal and non-legal, in favor of the CFPB’s continued existence as an independent regulator:
PHH’s Brief. Briefing for PHH and amicus curiae briefs in support of the mortgage lender were due on March 17. In its opening brief and addendum, PHH noted, among other things, that Congress has no ability to cut the agency’s budget and the President cannot remove its director without cause. As a general matter, the mortgage lender has argued that the Bureau’s creation “placed massive, unchecked federal power in the hands of a single, unaccountable director” and that “[t]he director alone rules over large swaths of the field of consumer finance, subject to virtually no restraints from the representative branches.”
DOJ Brief. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the DOJ filed its own brief in the case on March 17, arguing in support of the D.C. Circuit panel’s initial ruling and proposed remedy. As covered recently on InfoBytes, the DOJ presented arguments that differed both from the CFPB and from the positions previously presented by the Obama Administration in briefing submitted on behalf of the United States back in December.
Amicus Curiae in Support of PHH. The March 10 deadline also brought about the filing of seven amicus curiae briefs in support of PHH’s claims and/or defenses. Six of these filings took the position that the Bureau’s current structure violates separation-of-powers principle, while a seventh—filed by a combined group of 13 banking and residential real estate-related organizations—argued in support of the company’s interpretation of the RESPA. Read more here.