Administrative adjudication proceedings
Administrative adjudication proceedings are formal adversarial proceedings conducted by an administrative law judge, who issues a recommended decision to the CFPB director. The director issues a final decision, either adopting or modifying the administrative law judge’s recommended decision.
The Bureau initiates an administrative adjudication proceeding by filing a Notice of Charges alleging a violation of a consumer protection statute. Unlike cases filed in federal court, administrative adjudication proceedings take place before an administrative agency tribunal. An administrative law judge presides over administrative adjudication proceedings in a fair, impartial, and expeditious manner and has a role similar to that of a trial judge. These proceedings operate in a manner similar to bench trials in federal district courts, although administrative adjudication proceedings have some differences including their evidentiary rules. The Office of Administrative Adjudication (OAA) maintains the official public record of all administrative proceedings. Proceedings are conducted in accordance with the Rules of Practice for Adjudication Proceedings.
The docket includes all public documents filed in administrative proceedings before the Office of Administrative Adjudication.
Forms and information for parties of administrative proceedings
Access forms and further information about the administrative adjudication process and proceedings before the administrative law judge.
Administrative law judges
Administrative law judges (ALJs) serve as independent, impartial triers of fact in formal proceedings requiring a decision on the record. Administrative law judges conduct formal hearings involving cases where all interested parties are given advance notice of a hearing; an opportunity to submit facts, arguments, offers of settlement, or proposals of adjustment; and an opportunity to be accompanied, represented, and advised by counsel or other qualified representatives. Administrative law judges at the Bureau are not subject to the supervision or direction of, or responsible to, any officer, employee, or agent engaged in the performance of investigative or prosecuting functions for the Bureau. Administrative law judges are appointed for life under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 500 et seq., through a procedure administered by the Office of Personnel Management. Administrative law judges have complete judicial independence from the Bureau.
Administrative law judge authority
The authority of United States administrative law judges comes from the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 500 et seq. The APA is designed to guarantee the decisional independence of administrative law judges and ensure fairness in administrative proceedings before federal government agencies.
All direction and questions by the Bureau to the administrative law judge concerning any adjudication proceeding must appear in and be a part of the record. 12 C.F.R. § 1081.105(b). Administrative law judges are not rated by, evaluated, or given bonuses for their performance by any official of the Bureau. Bureau officials may not interfere with administrative law judges’ decision making, and administrative law judges may be discharged only for good cause established based upon a complaint filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and determined after an APA hearing on the record before an MSPB judge.
Administrative law judge powers
The powers of an administrative law judge include the power:
- To administer oaths and affirmations
- To issue subpoenas, subpoenas duces tecum, and protective orders, and quash or modify any such subpoenas or orders
- To take depositions or cause depositions to be taken
- To receive and rule upon the admission of evidence
- To regulate the course of a proceeding and the conduct of parties and their counsel
- To rule on the admissibility and confidentiality of written submissions
- To conduct conferences for settlement, simplification of issues, or any other proper purpose
- To inform parties of the availability of alternative means of dispute resolution and encourage use of such methods
- To certify questions to the director for his or her determination in accordance with the rules of practice for adjudication proceedings
- To consider and rule upon all procedural and other motions
- To issue and file recommended decisions
- To recuse himself or herself as necessary
- To issue sanctions against parties or their counsel as necessary
- To do all other things necessary and appropriate to discharge the duties of a presiding hearing officer
12 C.F.R. § 1081.104
Representing parties before an administrative law judge
- Attorneys: Any attorney in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any State may represent a party in an administrative adjudication proceeding if such attorney is not currently suspended or debarred from practice before the Bureau or by a court of the United States or of any State.
- Non-attorneys: So long as such individual is not currently suspended or debarred from practice before the Bureau:
- An individual may appear on his or her own behalf
- A member of a partnership may represent the partnership
- A duly authorized officer of a corporation, trust, or association may represent the corporation, trust, or association
- A duly authorized officer or employee of any government unit, agency, or authority may represent that unit, agency, or authority
- Any individual acting as counsel on behalf of a party shall file a notice of appearance.
12 C.F.R. § 1081.107
Ex parte communications
Ex parte communications with the administrative law judge are not allowed. An ex parte communication is any material oral or written communication relevant to the merits of an adjudication proceeding that is not made on the record or with reasonable prior notice to all the parties that takes place between interested persons not employed by the Bureau and the administrative law judge, director, or a decisional employee. A request for status of the proceeding does not constitute an ex parte communication. If an ex parte communication is received, its content shall be placed on the record of the proceeding. All parties shall be informed and have an opportunity to file responses thereto and recommend appropriate sanctions.
12 C.F.R. § 1081.110
Rules of evidence
Generally, evidence that is relevant, material, reliable, and not unduly repetitive is admissible in administrative hearings. Relevant evidence may be excluded, however, if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice or confusion of the issues; if it would be misleading; or based on considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. Evidence that constitutes hearsay may be admitted if it is relevant, material, and bears satisfactory indicia of reliability. Evidence that would be admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence is admissible. Evidence that would be inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence may not be deemed or ruled to be inadmissible solely on that basis. Official notice may be taken of any material fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either generally known or capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.
A party is entitled to present its case or defense by sworn oral testimony and documentary evidence, to submit rebuttal evidence, and to conduct cross-examination as, in the discretion of the administrative law judge, may be required for a full and true disclosure of the facts.
The Office of Administrative Adjudication is not authorized to receive or act upon consumer complaints about consumer financial products or services. Consumer complaints can be submitted online or by calling the CFPB toll-free at 855-411-CFPB (2372); TTY/TDD Phone 855-729-CFPB (2372).