Washington D.C. – Cause of Action Institute (“CoA Institute”) today filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) to provide records the agency used in formulating its rule to prohibit the use of mandatory binding arbitration clauses in financial services contracts.

Cause of Action Institute Vice President John Vecchione: “To issue a regulation affecting such a vast swath of the economy, and then attempt to conceal the bulk of the documents reflecting how that decision was made from public view, violates the law and the American people’s right to know.”

Prohibiting the use of third-party arbitration in financial contracts would subject numerous financial institutions to a flood of class action lawsuits, further burdening the courts and ultimately injuring consumers by increasing the costs associated with bank loans and other financial services. The CFPB’s proposed rule was largely based on a study commissioned by the agency in 2015. 

In April 2016, CoA Institute filed a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request for records that would show how the agency conducted its study. Although CFPB produced some documents, the agency withheld a large number of responsive records and information. 

In September, 2016, CFPB issued a final determination, indicating the agency would withhold 1,877 pages of responsive records. CoA Institute appealed the CFPB’s determination and challenged each FOIA exemption the agency applied to the production. Last month, CFPB denied the appeal.

In its lawsuit, CoA Institute argues that CFPB is required to produce all responsive records not covered by a valid exemption.  The burden is on the agency to justify the use of any exemption to withhold or redact information, which CFPB has failed to do. The lawsuit compels the agency to produce all records improperly withheld within twenty business days of the court’s order.

The full lawsuit can be found here