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  • CFPB Succession: Leandra English steps down, seeks to dismiss appeal; Mulvaney selects close advisor to be new deputy

    Federal Issues

    On July 9, Leandra English filed a motion for voluntary dismissal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, effectively ending her eight-month legal battle over the appointment of Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB. The motion follows an announcement released via Twitter on July 6 that English will be stepping down from her position as deputy director of the Bureau “in light of the recent nomination of a new Director.” (As previously covered by InfoBytes, President Trump nominated Kathy Kraninger, currently serving as the associate director for general government at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to be the director of the Bureau for a five-year term.) In April, the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in English’s litigation. Unlike previous arguments, which focused on the president’s authority to appoint Mulvaney under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA), the court spent considerable time discussing Mulvaney’s concurrent role as head of the OMB, and whether that dual role is inconsistent with the Bureau’s independent structure as established by the Dodd-Frank Act. A decision was pending at the time English submitted her dismissal of the case.

    Following English’s resignation, Mulvaney announced the selection of Brian Johnson as the Bureau’s acting deputy director. Johnson was Mulvaney’s first advisor hire at the Bureau, and he currently serves as a principal policy director. Prior to joining the Bureau, Johnson was a senior counsel at the House Financial Services Committee.

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession CFPB FVRA Dodd-Frank English v. Trump Appellate D.C. Circuit

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  • D.C. Circuit rejects challenge to FTC’s 2016 staff letter on soundboard technology

    Courts

    On April 27, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed a challenge to a November 2016 FTC staff letter, which announced the FTC would treat calls using soundboard technology as robocalls. According to the D.C. Circuit opinion, the FTC’s 2016 staff letter rescinded a 2009 staff letter, which reached the conclusion that soundboard technology was not subject to robocall regulation. The Soundboard Association filed suit, seeking to enjoin the rescission of the 2009 letter, arguing that the 2016 staff letter violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by issuing a legislative rule without notice and comment and that it unconstitutionally restricted speech in violation of the First Amendment. The lower court granted summary judgment for the FTC holding that the 2016 letter did not violate the First Amendment and that the letter was an interpretive rule and therefore not subject to the notice and comment requirements of the APA. Upon appeal, the D.C. Circuit vacated the lower court’s decision and dismissed the action in its entirety, holding that the 2016 letter was not a “final agency action” and therefore, the plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action under the APA.

    Courts D.C. Circuit Appellate FTC Robocalls Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • FCC seeks comments on interpretation of autodialer under TCPA

    Federal Issues

    On May 14, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau released a notice seeking comment on the interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in light of the recent D.C. Circuit decision in ACA International v. FCC. (Covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert.) The notice requests, among other things, comment on what constitutes an “automatic telephone dialing system” (autodialer) due to the court setting aside the FCC’s 2015 interpretation of an autodialer as “unreasonably expansive.” Specifically, the FCC requests comment on how to interpret the term “capacity” under the TCPA’s definition of an autodialer (“equipment which has the capacity—(A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers”) and requests comment on the functions a device must be able to perform to qualify as an autodialer, including how “automatic” the dialing mechanism must be. Additionally, the notice seeks comment on (i) how to treat reassigned wireless numbers under the TCPA; (ii) how a party may revoke prior express consent to receive robocalls; and (iii) three pending petitions for reconsideration, including the 2016 Broadnet Declaratory Ruling and the 2016 Federal Debt Collection Rules. Comments are due by June 13 and reply comments are due by June 28.

    On May 3, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Bankers Association, and over a dozen more trade associations petitioned the FCC seeking a declaratory ruling on the definition of an autodialer under the TCPA, previously covered by InfoBytes here.

    Federal Issues TCPA Consumer Finance FCC Agency Rule-Making & Guidance D.C. Circuit Appellate Autodialer

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  • PHH will not challenge CFPB’s constitutionality with Supreme Court

    Courts

    PHH will not seek to appeal the January 31 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which upheld the CFPB’s constitutionality in a 7-3 decision. (Covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert.) The Supreme Court requires petitions for writ of certiorari to be filed within 90 days of the decision, which would have put PHH’s deadline around May 1. According to reports, a PHH spokesperson confirmed the company did not file the petition but declined to provide further comment.

    As previously covered by InfoBytes, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit recently agreed to hear a similar challenge to the constitutionality of the CFPB’s single-director structure by two Mississippi-based payday loan and check cashing companies.

    Courts PHH v. CFPB CFPB Dodd-Frank Federal Issues D.C. Circuit Appellate

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  • CFPB Succession: Mulvaney pleads for Congress to restructure the CFPB; oral arguments held in English litigation

    Federal Issues

    On April 11 and 12, acting Director of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, testified before the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee regarding the Bureau’s semi-annual report to Congress. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here). Mulvaney’s prepared testimony, which was submitted to both committees, covers the salient points of the semi-annual report but also includes the same request to Congress that he made in the report: change the law “in order to establish meaningful accountability for the Bureau.” This request, which includes four specific changes (such as, subjecting the Bureau to the Congressional appropriations process and creating an independent Inspector General for the Bureau), was the focus of many of Mulvaney’s responses to questions posed by members of each committee. Specifically, during the House Financial Services hearing, Mulvaney encouraged the members of the committee to include the CFPB restructure in negotiations with the Senate regarding the bipartisan regulatory reform bill, S.2155, which passed the Senate last month. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here).

    Mulvaney also fielded many questions regarding the Bureau’s announcement that it plans to reconsider the final rule addressing payday loans, vehicle title loans, and certain other extensions of credit (Rule); however, his responses gave little indication of what the Bureau’s specific plans for the Rule are. As previously covered by InfoBytes, resolutions have been introduced in the House and the Senate to overturn the rule under the Congressional Review Act. Additionally, on April 9, two payday loan trade groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas asking the court to set aside the Rule because, among other reasons, the CFPB is unconstitutional and the Bureau’s rulemaking failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act. The complaint alleges that the Rule is “outside the Bureau's constitutional and statutory authority, as well as unnecessary, arbitrary, capricious, overreaching, procedurally improper and substantially harmful to lenders and borrowers alike.” The complaint also argues that the rule is a product of an agency that violates the Constitution’s separation of powers due to the Bureau’s structure of a single director who may only be removed by the president “for cause.” A similar argument in CFPB v. PHH Corporation was recently rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (covered by a Buckley Sandler Special Alert).

    Additionally, on April 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in English v. Trump. In this suit, Leandra English, the current deputy director of the CFPB, challenges Mulvaney’s appointment as acting director. Unlike previous arguments, which focused on the president’s authority to appoint Mulvaney under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA), the court spent considerable time discussing Mulvaney’s concurrent role as head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and whether that dual role is inconsistent with the independent structure of the Bureau, as established by the Dodd-Frank Act.

    Federal Issues CFPB Succession Payday Lending Senate Banking Committee House Financial Services Committee Appellate D.C. Circuit CFPB English v. Trump

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  • Buckley Sandler Special Alert: D.C. Circuit significantly narrows FCC’s order defining autodialer

    Courts

    On March 16, the D.C. Circuit issued its much anticipated ruling in ACA International v. FCC. The D.C. Circuit’s ruling significantly narrows a Federal Communication Commission order from 2015, which, among other things, had broadly defined an “autodialer” for purposes of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

    * * *

    Click here to read the full special alert.

    If you have questions about the ruling or other related issues, please visit our Class Actions practice page, or contact a Buckley Sandler attorney with whom you have worked in the past.

    Courts FCC Appellate D.C. Circuit TCPA Special Alerts Autodialer

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  • Supreme Court denies writ challenging data breach standing

    Courts

    On February 20, the U.S. Supreme Court denied without comment a medical insurance company’s petition for writ of certiorari to challenge an August 2017 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which reversed the dismissal of a data breach suit filed by the company’s policyholders in 2015. According to the D.C. Circuit opinion, the policyholders sued the medical insurance company after the company announced that an unauthorized party had accessed personal information for 1.1 million members. The lower court dismissed the policyholder’s case, holding that they did not have standing because they could not show an actual injury based on the data breach. In reversing the lower court’s decision, the D.C. Circuit, citing the Supreme Court ruling in Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, held that it was plausible that the unauthorized party “has both the intent and the ability to use [the] data for ill.” This was sufficient to show that the policyholders had standing to bring the claims because they alleged a plausible risk of future injury.

    Courts Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Spokeo Class Action U.S. Supreme Court Appellate D.C. Circuit Data Breach

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  • D.C. Circuit will not rehear False Claims suit against national bank

    Courts

    On February 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit denied a petition for an en banc rehearing of its December 2017 ruling affirming the dismissal of a False Claims Act suit against a national bank. The petition resulted from a 2013 lawsuit filed by a consumer against the bank, which alleged, among other things, that the bank falsely asserted that it had complied with certain obligations under the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement (the “Settlement”). The district court dismissed the suit, finding that the consumer lacked standing because he did not exhaust the required dispute resolution procedures contained in the Settlement. In December 2017, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal but disagreed with the lower court’s reasoning. According to the appellate opinion, the circuit court held that the consumer’s second amended complaint did not contain any allegedly false or deceptive statements made by the bank to the government-approved settlement monitor and that ultimately, “the decisive point is that the Monitor was aware of the practices and concluded that [the bank] was in compliance.”

    Courts False Claims Act / FIRREA Appellate D.C. Circuit

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  • D.C. Circuit Court Affirms Dismissal of Suit, FCA First-to-File Bar Applies

    Courts

    In an opinion handed down on July 25, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed a district court’s dismissal of a False Claims Act (FCA) suit because it violated the first-to-file bar, ruling that a relator must re-file a qui tam action and cannot merely amend a complaint where the relator’s complaint was filed when a related qui tam case was still pending. The first-to-file bar provides that if an individual brings an action under the FCA, “no person other than the Government may intervene or bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.”

    The case concerned a qui tam relator who claimed that a telecommunications company overbilled on government contracts, thereby violating the FCA, which “penalizes the knowing submission of a false or fraudulent claim for payment to the federal government.” While the first suit was still pending, the relator filed a second suit alleging that the fraud was more widespread. The related suit was then resolved, but a district court dismissed the second suit based on the FCA’s first-to-file bar, which the D.C. Circuit affirmed. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the relator’s petition for certiorari, and vacated the D.C. Circuit’s decision, citing a holding in Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc., et al v. Carter, 135 S. Ct. 1970 (2015), in which the Court claimed that the first-to-file bar only applies when a previous suit is pending—not once it has been resolved. Therefore, once the first-filed suit has been resolved, the first-to-file bar “no longer prohibits bringing a new action.” Because the statute of limitations period had run while the case was being appealed to the Supreme Court, the relator sought to amend his complaint rather than file a new action. The defendant moved to dismiss, and the district court granted the defendant’s motion. The relator appealed the ruling back to the D.C. Circuit, but the appellate court sided with the defendants and dismissed the relator’s action without prejudice. However, the appellate court expressly declined to opine on whether the statute of limitations would be equitably tolled if the relator were to re-file his complaint.

    Courts Litigation Appellate D.C. Circuit False Claims Act / FIRREA

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  • D.C. Circuit Finds District Court Lacks Jurisdiction in Case Alleging Violations of D.C. Consumer Protection Laws

    Consumer Finance

    On July 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the district court’s ruling, opining that the plaintiffs in a putative class action failed to establish Article III standing to file suit in federal court. Hancock v. Urban Outfitters, Inc., No. 14-7047, WL 3996710 (D.C. Cir. July 26, 2016). In 2013, the consumer plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that two D.C. retail stores violated the Identification Information Act, D.C. Code § 47-3151 et seq., and D.C. Consumer Protection Procedure Act, D.C. Code § 28-3901 et seq., by requesting the plaintiffs’ zip codes at the time of purchase. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim. As such, the district court ruled that it was unnecessary to address the stores’ jurisdictional argument that the plaintiffs failed to plead an injury sufficient for Article III standing. Citing the recent Spokeo v. Robins Supreme Court ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit disagreed: “The Supreme Court’s decision in Spokeo thus closes the door on [the plaintiffs’] claim that the Stores’ mere request for a zip code, standing alone, amounted to an Article III injury.” “Because the plaintiffs have not alleged any concrete injury in fact stemming from alleged violations of D.C. law,” the D.C. Circuit held that “the district court lacked jurisdiction to decide the merits of the case.”  The D.C. Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment on the merits and remanded with instructions to dismiss the complaint.

    Consumer Finance Appellate D.C. Circuit Spokeo

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