7 posts from October 2022

Dual Insulation? The Fifth Circuit's Factual Misunderstanding of CFPB Funding

posted by Adam Levitin

I know I’m carrying around some extra weight.  But I don’t think it’s quite double insulation.  That sounds like something you need if you’re going on a polar expedition or are really concerned about the heating bill.  But the concept of "dual insulation" plays a big role in the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Community Financial Services Association of America, Ltd. v. CFPB, which held the CFPB’s funding mechanism to be unconstitutional because it is not an annual appropriation from Treasury.   

In this post, I’ll discuss some of the background on the case, the poorly understood nature of the CFPB’s funding (factual mistakes about which loomed large in the Fifth Circuit’s decision), and the challenge the Fifth Circuit faced in trying to differentiate the CFPB’s funding from that of a host of other federal regulatory agencies (that’s where dual insulation comes in).

Continue reading "Dual Insulation? The Fifth Circuit's Factual Misunderstanding of CFPB Funding" »

US Chamber of Commerce vs CFPB

posted by Adam Levitin

One would have thought that after a dozen years the challenges to the CFPB’s constitutionality would have been over and that the Supreme Court’s decision in Seila Law would have put the matter to rest. But there are still a trio of suits pending that bring constitutional challenges to the Bureau, including one recently filed in the Eastern District of Texas by the US Chamber of Commerce and some banking and business associations. That’s the suit I’m going to focus on. 

The Chamber’s suit alleges that a recent change in the CFPB’s examination manual—guidance for CFPB examiners that the Bureau happens to make public as a courtesy—that indicates that examiners are to consider discrimination in non-credit services to be an unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice is a “legislative rule.” A legislative rule must comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, including adequate notice-and-comment, being based in law, and not being arbitrary and capricious. As a kicker, however, the Chamber’s suit adds in a count that the Bureau’s funding is unconstitutional. What's likely to happen?

 

Continue reading "US Chamber of Commerce vs CFPB" »

Help us Brainstorm how the Bankruptcy System Could be Fairer to Low-income People and People of Color

posted by Dalié Jiménez

This past month, Nathalie (Martin) and I gave a talk at the Tenth Circuit Bench and Bar Conference on Credit, Race, Class, and Bankruptcy. After recounting some of the historical reasons for persistent wealth, income, and debt gaps among different races and ethnicities, we shared these slides to show that wealth and debt inequalities persist to this day.

In one news story that was only a month or so old, one family’s home appraisal in Maryland jumped almost $300,000 when the family covered all evidence that a Black family lived in the house. This was just one of several articles in the last two years alone. We found similar examples from Florida, Colorado, California, and Ohio, all within the last two years.

After that, we began a conversation about how the bankruptcy system and rules might unintentionally have a disparate impact on all low-income people, including many persons of color. As one example, we displayed this form from the bankruptcy court in Connecticut, which essentially announces the dismissal of chapter 7 cases with little explanation of why, before a debtor can even respond:

CT form

After groups in our session shared about problems, they came up with a list of things we could do within the system to help make it fairer for low-income people and persons of color, even without amending the Bankruptcy Code. Several judges shared things they already do to help low-income persons, including creating alternative systems for communicating with the court and for filling documents, for pro se persons without PACER, as well as creating a fund for translators for pro se debtors.

We seek more input on this topic from our CreditSlips readers. What have you seen happen in bankruptcy court, by way of local practice or rule, that could have a disparate impact on low-income people, many of whom are persons of color? In what ways might we tweak the system, even a little, to help ameliorate this impact? We appreciate your thoughts in the chat or to either of us by email. We plan to gather everything we learn and write about it. As most of us know, the little things are often the big things when it comes to equity justice.

New Book Alert: Delinquent

posted by Melissa Jacoby

Cover ImageThe University of California Press has published Delinquent: Inside America's Debt Machine by Elena Botella. 

Botella used to be "a Senior Business Manager at Capital One, where she ran the company’s Secured Card credit card and taught credit risk management. Her writing has appeared in The New RepublicSlate, American Banker, and The Nation."

Here's the description from the publisher between the dotted lines below: 

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A consumer credit industry insider-turned-outsider explains how banks lure Americans deep into debt, and how to break the cycle.

Delinquent takes readers on a journey from Capital One’s headquarters to street corners in Detroit, kitchen tables in Sacramento, and other places where debt affects people's everyday lives. Uncovering the true costs of consumer credit to American families in addition to the benefits, investigative journalist Elena Botella—formerly an industry insider who helped set credit policy at Capital One—reveals the underhanded and often predatory ways that banks induce American borrowers into debt they can’t pay back.

Combining Botella’s insights from the banking industry, quantitative data, and research findings as well as personal stories from interviews with indebted families around the country, Delinquent provides a relatable and humane entry into understanding debt. Botella exposes the ways that bank marketing, product design, and customer management strategies exploit our common weaknesses and fantasies in how we think about money, and she also demonstrates why competition between banks has failed to make life better for Americans in debt. Delinquent asks: How can we make credit available to those who need it, responsibly and without causing harm? Looking to the future, Botella presents a thorough and incisive plan for reckoning with and reforming the industry.

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Looking forward to reading this book! Also expecting to see more from the University of California Press of direct interest to Credit Slips readers in the years ahead. 

Chase's 50% Venmo Transaction Fee

posted by Adam Levitin

I teach about the $40 latte--a $5 latte with a $35 overdraft fee--and think I know how to avoid that. But I was pretty shocked when I looked at my Chase credit card statement today and saw the card card equivalent of an outrageous overdraft fee:  $20 in cash advance fees and $0.25 in cash advance interest for two credit-card funded Venmo transactions totaling $40. A 50% fee?  WTF.

What made this even more shocking was that Chase has never previously charged me fees or interest for Venmo transactions. As recently as July, I have Venmo'd without paying anything more than Venmo's 3% fee for credit-card funded transactions, and my card issuer has not sent me any change of terms notices in the interim. Puzzled, I decided to figure out what was going on. 

Continue reading "Chase's 50% Venmo Transaction Fee" »

Getting Ready for Uniform Commercial Code Reform?

posted by Melissa Jacoby

2022 amendmentsIAs digital assets and emerging technologies become common in commercial transactions, state commercial law must rise to the challenge - that's the driving force behind a new set of amendments to the Uniform Commercial Code, including Article 9 governing secured transactions in personal property - such as in virtual currencies and nonfungible tokens.

No state has enacted the amendments yet,* but prior reforms to Article 9, at least, have been remarkably successful at achieving broad enactment. Consider, for example, the visual of the 2010 amendments to Article 9. Blue=enacted!

2010 amendments

How to track developments? Here are some publicly available resources courtesy of the Uniform Law Commission:

First, here is where to find the actual amendments as finally approved by the Uniform Law Commission and the American Law Institute. 

Second, here is a summary. Note the mention at the bottom of transition rules for lenders who followed existing law in perfecting security interests, etc. (by the way, there is not a prospective uniform effective date for these amendments). 

Third, videos! Here's one highlighting the changes for digital assets. And here's another on other matters covered in the amendments

Fourth, here's where proposed bills and enactment information will be tracked.

*According to the digital assets video, some states adopted earlier versions of part or all of these amendments (New Hampshire, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Arkansas, and Texas) but are expected to update those to conform with the final versions. Wyoming and Idaho went their own way on commercial transactions in digital assets.  

Fake and Real People in Bankruptcy

posted by Melissa Jacoby

This draft essay, Fake and Real People in Bankruptcy, just posted on SSRN, is considerably less far along than Unbundling Business Bankruptcy Law, posted last week. Fake and Real starts with a Third Circuit case that tends to be less well known: it upheld the dismissal of an individual bankruptcy filer whose primary asset was a home he had built with his own hands. Perhaps you will find that story relevant to current debates about what is permissible in large chapter 11 cases. Like Unbundling Business Bankruptcy Law, Fake and Real reflects some of my in-depth research on The Weinstein Company.  

Here is the abstract: 

This draft essay explores how the bankruptcy system is structurally biased in favor of artificial persons - for-profit companies, non-profit enterprises, and municipalities given independent life by law - relative to humans. The favorable treatment extends to foundational issues such as the scope and timing of permissible debt relief, the conditions to receiving any bankruptcy protections, and the flexibility to depart from the Bankruptcy Code by asserting that doing so will maximize economic value. The system's bias contributes to the "bad-apple-ing" of serious policy problems, running counter to other areas of law have deemed harms like discrimination to be larger institutional phenomena. These features also make bankruptcy a less effective partner in the broader policy project of deterring, remedying, and punishing enterprise misconduct.

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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless (rlawless@illinois.edu) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.

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