Supreme Court protest

Demonstrators rally against the right-wing majority of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 2, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

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Group Behind Supreme Court CFPB Case Is Full of 'Criminals, Crooks, and Predatory Lenders'

Accountable.US warned that if the Supreme Court sides with the lending group, "it would open the door to the worst rollback of consumer protection in U.S. history and mass uncertainty for the markets and other agencies."

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a case brought by a payday lending industry trade group that represents companies with long histories of engaging in criminal activity and drawing hundreds of millions of dollars in fines from regulators—including the federal consumer protection agency they are now attempting to destroy.

An analysis released by the watchdog group Accountable.US ahead of Tuesday's proceedings cites a number of instances in which Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) board member companies were found to have taken part in "corruption and ethics scandals, including racketeering convictions, Ponzi scheme payouts, and payments to disgraced politicians."

The CFSA is before the Supreme Court on Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB) funding structure. The bureau's funding comes from the Federal Reserve system, not annual congressional appropriations.

If the Supreme Court sides with the CFSA, the consumer bureau—which is tasked with combating corporate abuses—could be forced to rely on Congress for its annual budget, opening it up to politically motivated cuts pushed by industry-backed Republicans who have sought to abolish the CFPB.

The Supreme Court could also issue a more sweeping ruling that completely invalidates the actions the agency has taken on behalf of consumers over the past dozen years, a decision that would have far-reaching implications for federal agencies, critical programs, and the U.S. economy.

Listen to the oral arguments:

The Accountable.US analysis makes clear that the beneficiaries of any weakening of the CFPB would be companies that have unlawfully preyed on consumers.

Enova International, a financial services firm whose chief strategy officer serves on the board of the CFSA, was fined $3.2 million by the CFPB in 2019 "for debiting consumer bank accounts without their authorization," Accountable.US noted.

A year later, Progressive Leasing—a subsidiary of PROG Holdings—"paid $175 million to settle a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit alleging the lender 'frequently' misled consumers by charging consumers twice the advertised ticket price for payments on rent-to-own items," the watchdog added.

The group estimated that CFSA companies have paid more than $200 million in fines levied by U.S. regulators.

Liz Zelnick, director of the Economic Security and Corporate Power program at Accountable.US, said Tuesday that "if ever there was a time to consider the source, it's this lawsuit."

"A gang of predatory payday lenders that include convicted racketeers and accused tax cheats, embezzlers, and scam artists want the Supreme Court to tie up the CFPB in knots of political obstruction and hamper the agency's work protecting consumers," said Zelnick. "These loan sharks notorious for charging as much as 1,200% interest rates are not the honest brokers and constitutional champions the financial industry and their lackeys in Congress make them out to be."

"If the Supreme Court sides with the criminals, crooks, and predatory lenders behind this case," Zelnick warned, "it would open the door to the worst rollback of consumer protection in U.S. history and mass uncertainty for the markets and other agencies."

Accountable.US and other watchdogs have called on Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to recuse from the case, citing their ties to the Koch network and other corporate groups and wealthy individuals that support—or stand to benefit from—the challenge to the CFPB. Both justices have refused to do so.

"It's far past time for these justices to stop putting their billionaire pals over everyday Americans," Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone said Monday. "Recusing themselves from cases where they have glaring conflicts of interest is the very least they can do to restore some semblance of credibility and integrity to our Supreme Court."

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