Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Consumer Law

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In the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, 12 U.S.C. 5491, Congress established a new independent agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an independent agency headed not by a multi-member commission but rather by a single Director. PHH is a mortgage lender that was the subject of a CFPB enforcement action that resulted in a $109 million order against it. PHH seeks to vacate the order, arguing that the CFPB’s status as an independent agency headed by a single Director violates Article II of the Constitution. The court concluded that CFPB’s concentration of enormous executive power in a single, unaccountable, unchecked Director not only departs from settled historical practice, but also poses a far greater risk of arbitrary decisionmaking and abuse of power, and a far greater threat to individual liberty, than does a multi-member independent agency. The court noted that this new agency lacks that critical check and structural constitutional protection, yet wields vast power over the U.S. economy. The court concluded that, in light of the consistent historical practice under which independent agencies have been headed by multiple commissioners or board members, and in light of the threat to individual liberty posed by a single-Director independent agency, Humphrey’s Executor v. United States cannot be stretched to cover this novel agency structure. Therefore, the court held that the CFPB is unconstitutionally structured. To remedy the constitutional flaw, the court followed the Supreme Court’s precedents and simply severed the statute’s unconstitutional for-cause provision from the remainder of the statute. With the for-cause provision severed, the court explained that the President now will have the power to remove the Director at will, and to supervise and direct the Director. Because the CFPB as remedied will continue operating, the court addressed the statutory issues raised by PHH and agreed with PHH that Section 8 of the Act allows captive reinsurance arrangements so long as the amount paid by the mortgage insurer for the reinsurance does not exceed the reasonable market value of the reinsurance; CFPB’s order against PHH violated bedrock principles of due process; and the CFPB on remand still will have an opportunity to demonstrate that the relevant mortgage insurers in fact paid more than reasonable market value to the PHH-affiliated reinsurer for reinsurance, thereby making disguised payments for referrals in contravention of Section 8. Accordingly, the court granted the petition for review, vacated the order, and remanded for further proceedings. View "PHH Corp. v. CFPB" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, alleging violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 U.S.C. 1692 et seq.; the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, D.C. CODE 28-3901 et seq.; and the District of Columbia Debt Collection Law, D.C.CODE 28-3814 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that the debt collection letter sent to her from defendant violated these statutes because the letter falsely implies both that defendant is meaningfully involved with the case as an attorney and that the creditor is threatening to bring a lawsuit to collect the debt. The court concluded, however, that the letter does not threaten any legal action, and the prominent disclaimer made clear that defendant was acting only in his capacity as a debt collector. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment on the pleadings. View "Jones v. Dufek" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that Urban Outfitters’ and Anthropologie’s zip code requests at the cashier stand violated two District of Columbia consumer protection laws. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice for failure to state a claim. The court concluded that the district court lacked jurisdiction to decide the merits of the case because neither plaintiff has alleged a concrete Article III injury tied to disclosure of her zip code that could support standing. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for dismissal of the case. View "Hancock v. Urban Outfitters, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Bank and a group of States challenged the constitutionality of various provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376. The district court concluded that plaintiffs lacked standing and that their claims were not ripe. The court concluded that the Bank has standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and that claim is ripe. Therefore, the court reversed as to that claim and remanded for reconsideration in the first instance the Bank’s constitutional challenge to the Bureau. The court also concluded that the Bank has standing to challenge Director Cordray’s recess appointment, and that claim is ripe. Therefore, the court reversed as to that claim and remanded for reconsideration in the first instance the Bank’s constitutional challenge to the recess appointment. The court further concluded that the Bank lacks standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and affirmed the judgment as to that claim. Finally, the court concluded that the State plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the Government’s orderly liquidation authority, and that claim is not ripe. Therefore, the court affirmed as to that claim. View "State Nat'l Bank of Big Spring v. Lew" on Justia Law

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The Bank and a group of States challenged the constitutionality of various provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376. The district court concluded that plaintiffs lacked standing and that their claims were not ripe. The court concluded that the Bank has standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and that claim is ripe. Therefore, the court reversed as to that claim and remanded for reconsideration in the first instance the Bank’s constitutional challenge to the Bureau. The court also concluded that the Bank has standing to challenge Director Cordray’s recess appointment, and that claim is ripe. Therefore, the court reversed as to that claim and remanded for reconsideration in the first instance the Bank’s constitutional challenge to the recess appointment. The court further concluded that the Bank lacks standing to challenge the constitutionality of the Financial Stability Oversight Council and affirmed the judgment as to that claim. Finally, the court concluded that the State plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the Government’s orderly liquidation authority, and that claim is not ripe. Therefore, the court affirmed as to that claim. View "State Nat'l Bank of Big Spring v. Lew" on Justia Law

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Defendants challenged a district court order requiring that they add two statements to their cigarette packages and advertisements: an announcement that a federal court has ruled that they “deliberately deceived the American public” about the dangers of cigarettes; and a declaration that they “intentionally designed cigarettes” to maximize addiction. The court concluded that given its earlier decisions in this case, the manufacturers’ objection to disclosing that they intentionally designed cigarettes to ensure addiction is both waived and foreclosed by the law of the case. Those decisions make equally clear that the district court, in ordering defendants to announce that they deliberately deceived the public, exceeded its authority under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968, to craft remedies that “prevent and restrain” future violations. 18 U.S.C. 1964(a). The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against DHS, alleging twenty-one causes of action stemming from the Government's collection, maintenance, and use of information about him. The court affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss each claim except those brought under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq. Plaintiff alleged that DHS is in possession of his full and specific credit card number, along with information regarding the type and issuer of the card. That plaintiff possesses a major credit card of a specific type and number bears on his mode of living for purposes of the definition of "consumer report" within the meaning of the Act. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's ruling that the Act's claims failed on the first prong of the definition of "consumer report" and remanded for further proceedings. View "Abdelfattah v. DHS" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Title X of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 12 U.S.C. 5481 et seq., as a violation of the separation of powers. The district court dismissed the complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief without reaching the merits of the complaint, ruling that Morgan Drexen Inc. had an adequate remedy at law in an enforcement action filed by the Bureau in the Central District of California, where Morgan Drexen could raise the constitutional challenge as a defense. The district court also ruled that the other plaintiff, an attorney who contracts with Morgan Drexen for paralegal services, lacked standing under Article III. The court affirmed, concluding that the attorney failed to proffer evidence of an injury in fact at the time she filed the complaint and that Morgan Drexen failed to show the district court abused its discretion in dismissing the complaint. View "Morgan Drexen, Inc. v. CFPB" on Justia Law

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Congress passed the Durbin Amendment as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376, which modified the Electric Funds Transfer Act (EFTA), Pub. L. No. 96-630, 92 Stat. 3641. At issue were two key provisions of the EFTA: section 920(a), which restricted the amount of the interchange fee and section 920(b), which prohibited certain exclusivity and routing priority agreements. Merchant groups challenged the Board's issuance of regulations imposing a cap on the per-transaction fees banks received (section 920(a)) and, in an effort to force networks to compete for merchants' business, requiring that at least two networks owned and operated by different companies be able to process transactions on each debit card (section 920(b)). Merchant groups sought lower fees and even more network competition. The court applied traditional tools of statutory interpretation and held that the Board's rules generally rest on reasonable constructions of the statute. The court remanded one minor issue regarding the treatment of so-called transactions-monitoring costs to the Board for further explanation. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the merchants and remanded for further proceedings. View "NACS, et al. v. FRS" on Justia Law

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Thirteen years ago, the Government sued several cigarette manufacturers (Defendants) and related industry organizations for civil violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The suit asserted that Defendants had conspired to deceive consumers about the health effects and addictiveness of smoking, seeking injunctive relief and disgorgement of $280 billion in profits. In this latest round of the lawsuit, Defendants challenged the district court's refusal to vacate injunctions imposed in 2009. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not clearly err when it found Defendants were reasonably likely to commit future RICO violations despite the passage of the Tobacco Control Act; and (2) did not abuse its discretion when it refused to vacate its injunctions under the primary jurisdiction doctrine. View "United States v. Philip Morris USA Inc." on Justia Law