The two trade groups that unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a stay of the August 19, 2019 compliance date for the CFPB’s final payday/auto title/high-rate installment loan rule (Payday Rule) have now filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction to enjoin the CFPB from enforcing the Payday Rule. While the Texas federal district court had denied a stay of the compliance date, it had granted the trade groups’ request for a stay of the April 2018 lawsuit they had filed challenging the Payday Rule. According, concurrently with filing the preliminary injunction motion, the trade groups also filed an Unopposed Motion to Lift the Stay of Litigation.
Early this year, the CFPB announced that it intended to engage in a rulemaking process to reconsider the Payday Rule pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and in its Spring 2018 rulemaking agenda, it indicated that it expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revisit the Payday Rule in February 2019. In their Unopposed Motion to Lift the Stay of Litigation, the trade groups state that the CFPB “has noted that it does not expect that rulemaking to be complete before the compliance date. Moreover, it is impossible to know what the result of that rulemaking will be.” They assert that because the compliance date has not been stayed, they “now have no choice but to pursue a preliminary injunction” to avoid the irreparable injuries the trade groups’ members will suffer in preparing for compliance with the Payday Rule’s requirements. They indicate that they have conferred with the CFPB about the motion and that the CFPB has stated that it does not oppose the motion provided the trade groups agree that the CFPB does not have to file an answer in the case pending further court order. The trade groups agreed to the CFPB’s request.
In the preliminary injunction motion, the trade groups argue that they are likely to succeed on the merits in their lawsuit challenging the Payday Rule because:
- The Payday Rule was adopted by an unconstitutionally-structured agency.
- The lending practices prohibited by the Payday Rule do not meet the CFPA’s standard for an act or practice to be deemed “unfair” because extending payday loans without satisfying the Bureau’s “ability to repay” determination is not likely to cause “substantial injury” to consumers, any injury caused by the prohibited practices is “reasonably avoidable,” and any injury that is not reasonably avoidable is “outweighed by countervailing benefits.”
- The lending practices prohibited by the Payday Rule do not meet the CFPA’s standard for an act or practice to be deemed “abusive” because consumers do not lack “understanding” of the loans covered by the Payday Rule and the prohibited practices do not take “unreasonable advantage” of consumers’ inability to protect their interests.
- The Payday Rule violates the CFPA provision prohibiting the Bureau from establishing a usury limit.
- The account access practices prohibited by the Payday Rule do not meet the CFPA’s standards for an act or practice to be deemed “abusive” or “unfair.”
The trade groups also argue that a preliminary injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable harm to their members in the form of the “massive irreparable financial losses” they will suffer if required to comply with the Payday Rule beginning in August 2019. They assert that these harms are not mitigated by the Bureau’s plans to reconsider the Payday Rule because “[t]he outcome of that rulemaking is uncertain and, in any event, repeal would not remedy the harms that are occurring now.”
Finally, the trade groups contend that the balance of harms and public interest favor a preliminary injunction. With regard to the balance of harms, they assert that there will be no cost to the Bureau in preserving the status quo pending an adjudication of the Payday Rule’s validity and “given its decision to reconsider the Final Rule, the Bureau will actually benefit from an injunction, which will ensure that the Bureau has sufficient time to conduct a thorough and careful reassessment of the rule.” (emphasis included). With regard to the public interest, the trade groups assert that the Payday Rule’s “unlawful nature” weighs heavily in favor of an injunction and a stay “will ensure that borrowers whom the rule would otherwise deprive of needed sources of credit will continue to have access to payday loans until the rule’s legality is resolved.”
The trade groups’ motion to stay the compliance date and litigation was filed jointly with the CFPB. In the preliminary motion, the trade groups state that they conferred with the CFPB and the CFPB stated that it could not take a position on the motion before reading it. Whether or not the CFPB opposes the motion, we expect consumer advocacy groups, in all likelihood the same groups that opposed the stay motion, will seek to file an amicus brief opposing the preliminary motion. Should the CFPB not oppose the preliminary injunction motion, the consumer advocacy groups are likely to assert as they did in opposing the stays that their participation is necessary to provide the court with the benefit of adversarial briefing.
We were hopeful that after the district court denied the trade groups’ request for reconsideration of the court’s denial of a stay of the Payday Rule’s compliance date, the CFPB would move quickly to issue a proposal to delay the compliance date pursuant to the APA’s notice-and-comment procedures. The filing of the preliminary injunction motion suggests that the trade groups are not optimistic that the CFPB will promptly take this course. Perhaps the CFPB will reveal its plans in its response to the motion.
In light of the CFPB’s prior support for the trade groups’s stay motion, the CFPB might consent to the entry of a preliminary injunction. Even if it does so, however, there is no certainty that the district court will grant a preliminary injunction. If the district court were to deny the preliminary injunction motion, the trade groups would have the right to appeal the denial to the Fifth Circuit which already has before it another case which raises the same constitutional challenge to the CFPB that the trade groups have raised.