A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a case brought by a payday lending group against the CFPB’s 2017 payday lending rule.
An appeals court on Wednesday ruled that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional, in a victory for lenders that have targeted the agency’s structure in a years-long bid to tamp down regulation.
A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the design of the CFPB violated the Constitution because it receives funding through the Federal Reserve, rather than appropriations legislation passed by Congress. Democrats established the structure when they created the CFPB in the 2010 Dodd-Frank law as a way to shield the bureau from political pressures that could impact its oversight of the finance industry.
The judges also vacated a 2017 small-dollar lending rule targeted by the payday lending advocates who brought the case — the Community Financial Services Association of America and the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas.
“Congress’s decision to abdicate its appropriations power under the Constitution, i.e., to cede its power of the purse to the Bureau, violates the Constitution’s structural separation of powers,” the judges wrote.
The appeals court ruling marked the latest victory for the finance industry, which has fought for years in Congress and the courts to blunt the CFPB’s reach and limit its ability to police financial services. Republican lawmakers have also worked for years to stifle the CFPB and revamp its structure, arguing the agency lacks accountability.
“Even among self-funded agencies, the Bureau is unique,” Judge Cory Wilson wrote Wednesday. “The Bureau’s perpetual self-directed, double-insulated funding structure goes a significant step further than that enjoyed by the other agencies on offer.”
The CFPB Wednesday declined to say whether it would appeal the decision to the full 5th Circuit. CFPB spokesperson Sam Gilford said “there is nothing novel or unusual about Congress’s decision to fund the CFPB outside of annual spending bills.”
“Other federal financial regulators and the entire Federal Reserve System are funded that way, and programs such as Medicare and Social Security are funded outside of the annual appropriations process,” Gilford added. “The CFPB will continue to carry out its vital work enforcing the laws of the nation and protecting American consumers.”
The Supreme Court in 2020 ruled that another provision of the agency’s structure — a single director who could only be fired for cause, rather than at will, by the president — violated the Constitution’s separation of powers.