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Amicus program

We file amicus, or friend-of-the-court, briefs in court cases concerning the federal consumer financial protection laws that we are charged with implementing. These amicus briefs provide the courts with our views on significant consumer financial protection issues and help ensure that consumer financial protection statutes and regulations are correctly and consistently interpreted by the courts.

Suggestions

We welcome your suggestions of pending cases that might make good candidates for the amicus program.

Strong candidates typically are cases that have been or will soon be filed in a federal court of appeals or state supreme court and that present one or more important legal questions involving the interpretation or application of a federal consumer financial protection statute or regulation that we interpret and enforce.

To suggest a case, email amicus@cfpb.gov, and include:

  • Case name,
  • Docket number,
  • Circuit or district court name,
  • Brief description of the case and issue,
  • Explanation of why you believe we should file an amicus brief in this case,
  • Current status of the litigation, and
  • Your contact information

Briefs filed

Briefs filed in the federal courts of appeals

Case Summary Court Filed Statute
Hernandez v. Williams, Zinman & Parham, P.C.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act provides that “a debt collector” must send a consumer a notice containing important information about the consumer’s debt and rights either in “the initial communication” or “[w]ithin five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt.” 15 U.S.C. § 1692g(a). Consumers have thirty days after receiving such a notice to dispute the debt and to request information about the original creditor. Id. § 1692g(b). The Bureau, joined by the Federal Trade Commission, filed this amicus brief arguing that each debt collector that contacts a consumer—not just the first debt collector that attempts to collect a particular debt—must send a notice that complies with this provision.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Aug 20 2014 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Buchanan v. Northland Group, Inc.

This case concerns the circumstances under which a debt collector may violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., by seeking to collect a debt for which the statute of limitations for initiating a collection action has expired. The Bureau joined the Federal Trade Commission in filing an amicus brief that argues that actual or threatened litigation is not a necessary predicate for an FDCPA violation in these circumstances. Rather, the brief argues that the FDCPA may be violated where the debt collector engages in communication that tends to deceive or mislead the least sophisticated consumers.

6th Circuit Court of Appeals Mar 10 2014 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Sykes v. Mel S. Harris & Associates LLC

This is a class-action lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and other federal and state statutes. Plaintiffs allege that the debt-collector defendants obtained over 120,000 default judgments against consumers from the New York City civil court by using affidavits falsely claiming that the consumers had been served when they had not, and falsely claiming personal knowledge of the relevant facts relating to the claim. Defendants have argued that this alleged conduct is not actionable under the FDCPA because the allegedly false communications were directed to the court and not the consumer. The Bureau, joined by the Federal Trade Commission, filed a brief arguing that the overall scheme is better understood as, in fact, being directed at the consumer, but that in any event, the relevant provisions of the FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. 1692e and 1692f, do not require that false communications or other misconduct be directed at the consumer.

2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Nov 15 2013 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Otoe-Missouria Tribe v. NY State

This case concerns the applicability of state law to payday lenders affiliated with Indian tribes. The Bureau’s brief explains that neither the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act nor the Bureau’s creation affects whether states may apply their laws to tribally affiliated lenders. The Bureau’s brief does not express a view on whether the state of New York may apply its laws to the tribally affiliated lenders in this case.

2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Nov 15 2013 Dodd-Frank Act
Edwards v. The First American Corp

This case concerns the types of evidence a private plaintiff needs to put forward to demonstrate that a defendant paid for a referral in violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). The Bureau filed a brief arguing that, when a referral agreement is entered into as part of a transaction involving the sale of ownership interests, a plaintiff could prove that the defendant paid for the referral without necessarily showing that the defendant overpaid for those ownership interests. The brief also argued that, when a plaintiff receives multiple referrals to the same settlement provider, the plaintiff is not required to prove that the unlawful referral was the one that influenced the plaintiff’s decision to select that provider.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Oct 30 2013 Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act of 1974
Moran v. The Screening Pros, LLC

This case presents the question of how long, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a consumer reporting agency can report certain negative information about an individual. The FCRA generally prohibits the reporting of adverse information for more than seven years. The Bureau, joined by the Federal Trade Commission, filed a brief arguing that for a dismissed criminal charge, the seven-year period begins on the date of the charge, not the date of the dismissal.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Oct 4 2013 Fair Credit Reporting Act
Delgado v. Capital Management Services

This case concerns the circumstances under which a debt collector may violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., by seeking to collect a debt for which the statute of limitations for initiating a collection action has expired. The Bureau joined the Federal Trade Commission in filing an amicus brief that argues that actual or threatened litigation is not a necessary predicate for an FDCPA violation in these circumstances. Rather, the brief argues that the FDCPA may be violated where the debt collector engages in communication that tends to deceive or mislead unsophisticated consumers.

7th Circuit Court of Appeals Aug 14 2013 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Berlin v. Renaissance Rental Partners

This case presents the question of whether condominium units are “lots” under the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq., and its implementing regulations. At the invitation of the Court, the Bureau filed a letter brief that argues that condominium units are “lots” without regard to whether the purchaser or lessee of the unit holds any other interest in land.

2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Mar 12 2013 Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act
Sherzer v. Homestar Mortgage Services

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. § 1635, gives borrowers the right to rescind certain transactions “by notifying the creditor.” If a creditor fails to provide the required forms and disclosures by closing, TILA provides that the right to rescind expires three years after the consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property, whichever occurs first. The Bureau’s amicus brief argues that a consumer can exercise the right to rescind within three years as provided by TILA by notifying the creditor, and need not also file a lawsuit within the three-year period in order to rescind a transaction.

3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Apr 13 2012 Truth In Lending Act
Sobieniak v. BAC Home Loans Servicing

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. § 1635, gives borrowers the right to rescind certain transactions “by notifying the creditor.” If a creditor fails to provide the required forms and disclosures by closing, TILA provides that the right to rescind expires three years after the consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property, whichever occurs first. The Bureau’s amicus brief argues that a consumer can exercise the right to rescind within three years as provided by TILA by notifying the creditor, and need not also file a lawsuit within the three-year period in order to rescind a transaction.

8th Circuit Court of Appeals Apr 13 2012 Truth In Lending Act
Wolf v. Fannie Mae

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. § 1635, gives borrowers the right to rescind certain transactions “by notifying the creditor.” If a creditor fails to provide the required forms and disclosures by closing, TILA provides that the right to rescind expires three years after the consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property, whichever occurs first. The Bureau’s amicus brief argues that a consumer can exercise the right to rescind within three years as provided by TILA by notifying the creditor, and need not also file a lawsuit within the three-year period in order to rescind a transaction.

4th Circuit Court of Appeals Apr 13 2012 Truth In Lending Act
Rosenfield v. HSBC Bank, USA

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. § 1635, gives borrowers the right to rescind certain transactions “by notifying the creditor.” If a creditor fails to provide the required forms and disclosures by closing, TILA provides that the right to rescind expires three years after the consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property, whichever occurs first. The Bureau’s amicus brief argues that a consumer can exercise the right to rescind within three years as provided by TILA by notifying the creditor, and need not also file a lawsuit within the three-year period in order to rescind a transaction.

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Mar 26 2012 Truth In Lending Act
Marx v. General Revenue Corp.

This case involves two questions concerning the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). First, the Bureau’s brief argues that the FDCPA generally bars debt collectors from contacting third parties in connection with the collection of a debt even if the third party does not actually realize that the contact relates to debt collection. Second, the brief argues that a defendant who wins an FDCPA suit may recover costs from the plaintiff only if the plaintiff brought suit in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment.

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Jan 26 2012 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Birster v. American Home Mortgage Services, Inc.

This case presents the question whether activity surrounding foreclosure is immune from the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Bureau’s brief argues that it is not. In particular, the brief argues:

  1. that an entity that regularly collects or attempts to collect debt is subject to the entire Act, even if its principal purpose is the enforcement of security interests; and
  2. that conduct relating to the enforcement of a security interest can also qualify as debt collection activity covered by the Act.
11th Circuit Court of Appeals Dec 21 2011 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Briefs filed in the supreme court

We also file amicus briefs in the Supreme Court in conjunction with the Solicitor General:

Case Summary Filed Statute
Jesinoski v. Countrywide Home Loans, Inc.

The Truth in Lending Act (TILA), 15 U.S.C. § 1635, gives borrowers the right to rescind certain transactions “by notifying the creditor.” If a creditor fails to provide the required forms and disclosures by closing, TILA provides that the right to rescind expires three years after the consummation of the transaction or upon the sale of the property, whichever occurs first. The government’s amicus brief argues that a consumer can exercise the right to rescind within three years as provided by TILA by notifying the creditor, and need not also file a lawsuit within the three-year period in order to rescind a transaction.

Jul 22 2014 Truth in Lending Act
Bank of America, N.A. v. Rose

In response to the Court’s call for the views of the Solicitor General, the government filed an amicus brief that argued that the Supreme Court should not review a decision of the California Supreme Court relating to the Truth in Savings Act (TISA). The amicus brief argued that the California Supreme Court correctly held that Congress has not preempted private actions brought under the state’s unfair competition law to the extent that liability is predicated on a violation of TISA. The brief also argued that the decision of the state supreme court did not conflict with any decision of the U.S. Supreme Court or a federal court of appeals.

May 27 2014 Truth in Savings Act
Marx v. General Revenue Corp.

The government’s amicus brief argues that a consumer who loses a suit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not have to pay the defendant’s court costs unless she filed the suit in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment.

Aug 3 2012 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Fein, Such, Kahn & Shepard, P.C. v. Allen

This case presents the question whether communications from debt collectors to consumers’ attorneys are categorically excluded from the coverage of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which in relevant part prohibits debt collectors from engaging in “[t]he collection of any amount . . . unless such amount is expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.” 15 U.S.C. 1692f(1). The government’s brief agrees with the court below that debt collectors’ communications to consumers’ attorneys can be covered by the FDCPA, and suggests that the Supreme Court not grant plenary review in the case.

Dec 23 2011 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Freeman v. Quicken Loans

This case concerns a provision of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act that prohibits the payment or receipt of “any portion, split, or percentage” of a charge for a real estate settlement service other than for a service actually performed, 12 U.S.C. § 2607(b). The question is whether, to establish a violation of this provision a consumer must demonstrate that an unearned fee was divided between two or more settlement service providers. The government’s amicus briefs at the petition stage and at the merits stage urge the Court to defer to the longstanding interpretation of HUD (adopted by the Bureau) and hold that RESPA bars all unearned fees including fees that a single entity charges a consumer and does not divide with another settlement service provider.

Dec 2 2011 Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act
First American v. Edwards

The case concerns the provisions of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act that prohibit the payment or receipt of a kickback for the referral of settlement services business and provide a cause of action for damages equal to three times the amount of any fee paid for a settlement service involving such a kickback, 12 U.S.C. § 2607(a) & (d)(2). The question presented is whether, in the absence of a claim that a kickback affected the price, quality, or other characteristics of a service provided, a consumer is sufficiently injured to establish Art. III standing and sustain a cause of action for damages. The government’s amicus brief argues that the plaintiff’s Article III standing was established by her allegations of a particularized violation of her statutory right to a kickback-free referral.

Oct 18 2011 Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act