Congressional method for funding CFPB held unconstitutional

Standard

A three-judge panel of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on October 19 that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding structure is unconstitutional. *

Rather than receiving its funding through periodic Congressional appropriations, the CFPB is funded directly from the Federal Reserve, which is funded through bank assessments. This funding method was intended to remove some congressional influence on the bureau.

Most federal agencies receive annual appropriations from Congress that are determined each year through legislative negotiations. Many agencies have separate funding sources like fees and assessments collected from the entities they regulate. The arrangement, like CFPB’s, which provides for a continuous funding source, is common among financial regulatory agencies like the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Many commentators have suggested that this opinion will not stand because nothing in the Constitution prevents Congress from funding agencies in a variety of ways. The case is expected to be appealed to the full Fifth Circuit and after that to the Supreme Court. But while this holding stands, it renders all CFPB actions from its inception vulnerable to challenge.

*Community Financial Services Association of America, Ltd. v. CFPB