D.C. Circuit Upholds as Constitutional the Structure of the CFPB – Part I. Todd Garvey, Legislative Attorney; Jared P. Cole, Legislative Attorney. February 12, 2018.
“The entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) issued a potentially important decision on January 31, upholding the structural design of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The en banc court held by a vote of 7-3 that the agency’s various statutory elements of independence, including a provision that limited the President’s authority to remove the CFPB Director, do not infringe upon the President’s powers under Article II of the Constitution. The decision, PHH Corp. v. CFPB, comes after a previous (but since vacated) three-judge panel decision held that providing removal protections to the sole director of the CFPB violated the Constitution. Although the en banc court rejected the earlier panel’s constitutional reasoning, the D.C. Circuit nonetheless reinstated the previous decision’s statutory holding, which had invalidated the CFPB’s interpretation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974 (RESPA). The D.C. Circuit’s latest decision therefore effectively rejected the CFPB enforcement action that gave rise to the case, but reaffirmed, and may expand, what is likely Congress’s chief tool for ensuring agency independence: the use of “for-cause” removal protections. This two-part Sidebar series begins with a brief summary of the Supreme Court’s views of the President’s removal power before addressing the PHH litigation and the en banc majority opinion. Part II of this series will address some of the separate opinions issued in the case and then highlight certain implications for Congress.”