Is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau constitutional? Soon we will know. But what happens to the CFPB’s day-to-day work in the meantime? A student loan relief company decided to find out, and learned that the issue of the CFPB’s constitutionality will have no effect on the company’s obligation to respond to a civil investigative demand.
The constitutionality of the CFPB is the central question that the United States Supreme Court will be deciding in Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, which is scheduled for oral argument on March 3.
Meanwhile, at the end of October 2019, Equitable Acceptance Corporation received a civil investigative demand (“CID”) from the CFPB that included 10 interrogatories (with a whopping 57 sub-parts), a request for a written report (with 17 sub-parts), and 10 document requests – all due back within eight business days. Additionally, an investigative hearing covering eight topics was scheduled for November 14. EAC tried to ask for more time but was able to negotiate only a short extension. So, instead, EAC used the CFPB’s administrative ruling process to submit a petition seeking to set aside or modify the CID, based on the theory that the Supreme Court’s anticipated opinion in Seila Law LLC could “impact the Bureau’s ability to proceed with its enforcement function.”
On the day after Christmas, the CFPB effectively said nope, commenting: “[t]he Bureau has consistently taken the position that the administrative process set out in the Bureau’s statute and regulations for petitioning to modify or set aside a CID is not the proper forum for raising and adjudicating challenges to the Bureau’s statute.” Director Kathleen L. Kraninger, who signed the formal ruling on EAC’s petition, also was unpersuaded by EAC’s arguments concerning the CID’s burdensome nature, commenting that “EAC is welcome to engage in discussions with the Bureau staff about any specific suggestions for modifying the CID.”
Based on this decision, it’s a safe bet that the usual duty to comply with a CID received from the CFPB will not be suspended while we wait for the Court’s decision in Seila Law LLC.