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PHH opposes intervention by plaintiffs in another case challenging CFPB’s constitutionality

Posted in CFPB Enforcement

PHH has filed a response opposing the motion of the plaintiffs in State National Bank of Big Spring, Texas, et al. v. Lew to intervene in the en banc rehearing.  The D.C. Circuit granted the CFPB’s petition for en banc rehearing on February 16.

In July 2016, the D.C. federal district court rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt in State National Bank of Big Spring to invalidate the actions taken by Director Cordray while he was a recess appointee.  The district court deferred ruling on the plaintiffs’ separation of powers constitutional challenge pending a decision by the D.C. Circuit in PHH.  The D.C. Circuit subsequently ruled in PHH that the CFPB’s single-director-removable-only-for-cause structure is unconstitutional.  Following the D.C. federal district court denial of the plaintiffs’ attempt to consolidate their case with PHH on appeal to the D.C. Circuit, the plaintiff filed a motion to intervene with the D.C. Circuit.

In their motion to intervene, the plaintiffs argued that if the D.C. Circuit grants the CFPB’s petition for rehearing en banc but decides the case on RESPA grounds, their “constitutional claims will be left unresolved, and the district court will be left without binding guidance from this Court as to how the constitutional question should be answered.”  According to the plaintiffs, a decision on RESPA grounds would delay the resolution of their case, “prolonging the harm they suffer from being subject to unconstitutionally promulgated regulations and ensuring that they will wait even longer for an eventual, inevitable merits determination from this Court.”  The plaintiffs also asserted that because they could not rely on PHH to defend the panel’s constitutionality holding as vigorously as they would, they met the requirement for intervention of right that no party to the action could adequately protect their interests.

In its response in opposition to the motion to intervene, PHH argues that like other intervention motions that have been filed in the case, the motion filed by the plaintiffs in State National Bank of Big Spring “appears to be little more than a naked attempt to seize control of this litigation from the actual litigants for the purpose of someday petitioning the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari in the event the defeated litigant determines that it is not in its interest to do so.  That goal is equally illegitimate when pursued by those who agree with PHH on the separation-of-powers question as it is for those who disagree.”  PHH characterizes the plaintiffs’ motion as an improper attempt to use intervention as a means of circumventing the district court’s abeyance order.

PHH also challenges the plaintiffs’ standing to intervene, asserting that “it is elementary that a third party’s purported interest in securing a particular precedent does not create standing to intervene.” (emphasis provided).  According to PHH, this principle applies with even more force in this case because the plaintiffs are not concerned merely with an adverse legal decision but with any decision that leaves the constitutional claims unresolved.  According to PHH, if the plaintiffs “were truly aggrieved by the CFPB’s order, as PHH is, than it is unclear why [plaintiffs] would have any interest in the rationale this Court employs in vacating that order.  It is well-established that a party’s interest in securing a decision with a particular legal rationale is insufficient to provide standing to appeal the decision if it produces no adverse consequences.” (emphasis provided).

With regard to the plaintiffs’ claim that they cannot rely on PHH to adequately protect their interest in challenging the CFPB’s constitutionality, PHH asserts that “PHH, represented by capable counsel, is fully capable of representing that interest and “there is utterly no reason to think that [plaintiffs] can do a better job in pressing [the constitutional argument] than PHH.” PHH also observes that “[t]o the extent [plaintiffs] are interested in the issues presented, their amicus curiae brief [filed with the D.C. Circuit in support of PHH prior to the panel’s ruling] allows them to be heard and to advise the Court as to the possible effects of its decision in this matter on [plaintiffs’] pending litigation, a traditional function of such briefs.”