The US Supreme Court on June 29 ruled in Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) structure unconstitutionally insulates the agency from presidential oversight and must be altered.

The Dodd-Frank Act sculpted the now-stricken structure, including protective provisions for the independent regulatory agency’s sole director that were known to be novel in that they allowed the president to oust the unitary director, who is appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate for a five-year term, only “for cause” (more specifically for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance”), while the vast majority of presidential appointees serve at the president’s pleasure alone and thus may be terminated for any reason or no reason at all. Prior to the CFPB’s creation, such “for cause” removal provisions typically were associated with independent regulatory agencies governed by multimember boards or commissions, rather than by a single director. Following the decision, the president may remove the agency’s director “at will.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued an interim final rule (IFR) on June 23, 2020 that temporarily permits mortgage servicers to offer to borrowers impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic certain loss mitigation options based on the evaluation of an incomplete loss mitigation application.

On June 18, 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued a procedural rule to launch a new pilot advisory opinion (AO) program to publicly address regulatory uncertainty in the Bureau’s existing regulations. The pilot AO program will allow entities seeking to comply with regulatory requirements to submit a request where uncertainty exists, and the Bureau will then select topics based on the program’s priorities and make the responses available to the public. The Bureau states that it is establishing the pilot AO program in response to feedback received from external stakeholders encouraging the Bureau to provide written guidance in cases of regulatory uncertainty. For the pilot AO program, requestors will be limited to covered persons or service providers that are subject to the Bureau’s supervisory or enforcement authority.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) announced on March 6 three steps designed to advance its strategy on one of its key priorities: preventing consumer harm. The CFPB is (i) implementing an advisory opinion program to provide additional guidance to assist companies in better understanding their legal and regulatory obligations; (ii) amending and reissuing its responsible business conduct bulletin; and (iii) engaging with Congress to advance proposed legislation that would authorize the CFPB to establish a whistleblower program with respect to reporting violations of federal consumer financial law.

Taken together, the first and second of these steps further the Bureau’s stated goal of clarifying in a meaningful way the regulatory requirements applicable to covered businesses. At the same time, the proposed whistleblower program would bring the Bureau in line with other federal enforcement agencies, e.g., the US Securities and Exchange Commission, that have launched similar programs in part to enhance the detection of violations in an era of leaner agency staffing.

After lengthy litigation on which we have commented extensively (see here and here), the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an en banc opinion vacating and reversing in part a decision of a panel of that court, and holding that the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Bureau, and formerly the CFPB), was not unconstitutionally structured. PHH Corp. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 881 F.3d 75 (DC Cir. 2018). For reasons not directly relevant to the instant matter, that litigation has ended and the Bureau has ended its administrative proceedings against PHH.