State AGs Must Fill The CFPB Void, But That's Not Enough

By Attorney General Karl A. Racine, originally appearing in Law360.

Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau successfully sued a group of companies that had flagrantly violated usury laws in several states. Lawyers for the agency alleged that NDG Financial Corp. and associated businesses had run “a cross-border online payday lending scheme” that not only charged interest rates well above state legal limits but used “unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices to collect on the loans and profit from the revenues.” A federal court entered a default judgment against several of the uncooperative defendants, and the rest of the suit was pending.

But then Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s interim CFPB head, not only dropped the lawsuit, but announced in a report to Congress that he is dropping sanctions against the parties that the court had already judged at fault.

That’s just one example of Mulvaney letting alleged law violators in the industry get away scot-free. In March, Reuters reported that, under Mulvaney, the CFPB did an abrupt about-face in its pursuit of another payday lender, National Credit Adjusters, and was considering backing off on three other suits that had been approved under the previous CFPB director, Richard Cordray. Those cases alleged abusive business practices and sought $60 million in restitution for consumers.

Perhaps this is what we should expect from a CFPB run by Mulvaney — who in his previous life as a Republican congressman from South Carolina received more than $60,000 in donations from the payday lending industry and who recently told a group of bankers (according to the Washington Post) that when he was in Congress, he only listened to lobbyists who had given him money. But where does that leave the consumers the CFPB is intended to protect?

Payday loans are taken out by consumers who need fast cash to make ends meet. They are usually due in two weeks, and are tied to the borrower’s paycheck cycle. Industry leaders claim that the loans are designed to help consumers cover unexpected or emergency expenses — but the reality is that these loans, especially when loosely regulated, often drag people into ongoing debt when they can least afford it. And the industry has a perverse incentive to keep it that way.

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, payday borrowers are disproportionately low-income and living on the edge: The average annual income of a payday borrower is about $30,000, and 58 percent have trouble meeting their monthly expenses. Indeed, seven in 10 payday borrowers use the loans to cover basic expenses like rent and utilities, not extraordinary expenses. And doing so buries them in revolving debt: The average payday loan borrower is in debt for five months of the year and spends an average of $520 in fees to borrow an average of $375. 

With $9 billion in interest and other fees on the line, according to Pew research, it’s obvious why the industry wants to keep milking lower-income people of as much cash as possible.

While Cordray was at the CFPB, the agency proposed a new regulation that would better protect consumers from the industry’s worst practices. The rule would have required payday lenders to ensure that a consumer could actually afford a payday loan before issuing it. The rule would also have limited the number of times a lender could “roll over” payday loans — thereby making it more difficult for the lower-income consumers who make up the vast majority of payday borrowers to get caught in endless cycles of revolving debt.

After taking over the agency, Mulvaney put that rulemaking on hold, while the Senate considers killing it altogether. Meanwhile, payday lenders are circling the courts, armed with lawsuits seeking to block the rule. 

Without a national rule, consumers would be left to the mercies of state legislatures and regulators. That might be fine for the residents of the District of Columbia, where we cap effective interest rates at 24 percent (largely outlawing payday lenders). But in the 36 states with no effective anti-usury laws, payday loans are available at unconscionable average annual interest rates (per the Pew Charitable Trusts) of 391 percent. Moreover, payday lending on the internet is increasingly common, meaning that the District of Columbia and states with strong usury laws must often go to great lengths to pursue out-of-state lenders who have unlawfully taken advantage of our residents.

This is why we need a strong national voice for protecting all consumers. The original vision of the CFPB was to be that advocate in the financial services industry, instituting nationwide regulations and bringing enforcement powers to bear against payday lenders and other companies that abuse consumers.

When the CFPB plays this role, I and other attorneys general have a partner with which we can more effectively confront abusive business practices within our borders and win relief. For example, the CFPB filed suit against an online payday lender — CashCall — that unlawfully operated in the district and other states that outlaw payday lending. My office also filed a suit against CashCall alleging that the lender had violated district laws by charging consumers interest rates that ranged from 80 to 169 percent.

The CFPB won a ruling in 2016 that CashCall was guilty of deceptive and abusive business practices, and our office recently settled our lawsuit against CashCall, gaining nearly $3 million in restitution and debt forgiveness for consumers in the district.

Payday lending is far from being the only area where the CFPB’s national leadership has proved invaluable. Since the agency began operations in 2011, it has handled more than a million consumer complaints and returned nearly $12 billion to the pockets of more than 29 million consumers wronged by financial institutions — five times more than the agency itself costs taxpayers to fund. The CFPB has reached multiple settlements with banks, debt collectors and other predatory lenders that harmed consumers.

It also took the strategic lead on regulating other key industries that preyed on vulnerable consumers. For example, partnering with several state attorneys general, the CFPB took action against a number of predatory for-profit colleges, forcing them to pay restitution to consumers the schools lured in with unrealistic promises of a degree and gainful employment.

Now, with Mulvaney gutting the CFPB and giving more leeway to financial miscreants in the name of Mulvaney’s new “strategic priorities” to “recognize free markets and consumer choice,” the burden of standing up to giant, deep-pocketed financial institutions falls more heavily on state attorneys general with the resources and willingness to stand up for the consumers they serve.

One way attorneys general are stepping up is in joining amicus briefs opposing Mulvaney’s appointment as interim director and seeking to preserve the CFPB’s independence in the wake of Mulvaney’s support for turning the agency into yet another political pawn for Congress and the White House. We will be stepping up our efforts to safeguard consumers in other ways as well by bringing individual and multistate suits against financial services companies that harm consumers.

But, in the end, such efforts are by nature piecemeal and can’t replace the power the CFPB has to protect consumers across all states equally. Our end goal must be to be to pull the CFPB back to its original mission and away from subservience to the financial services industry and its army of well-heeled lobbyists. We cannot in good conscience abide businesses operating on a model of keeping consumers trapped in a web of indebtedness while an agency that has “consumer financial protection” in its name decides its strategic priority is to no longer financially protect consumers.

In keeping with the District of Columbia’s commitment to transparency in contracting and increased competition, the Office of Attorney General now provides a Notice of Intent to Award Sole Source Contracts. All notices are posted for ten (10) days prior to the award of a sole source contract. If you believe that an intended sole source award noted below is not justified, please provide your response to the email address for the point of contact for that proposed award by the response due date. 

Notice Date Response Due Date Contract/Caption Description Vendor Name Agency Contract Officer Email
05/09/18 05/18/18 Child Support Enforcement System Maintenance

Auctor Corporation

Determination & Findings

Office of the Attorney General Sanaz Etminan
Sanaz.Etminan@dc.gov
09/25/18 10/05/18 Reserved Parking Spaces

U Street Parking, Inc.

Determination & Findings

Office of the Attorney General Janice Watson
Janice.Watson@dc.gov

 

GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

 

 

POSITION VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT

ANNOUNCEMENT NO:       #18-033

POSITION TITLE:  

ATTORNEY ADVISOR

(Land Use and Public Works)

POSITION GRADE & SERIES: LS-13/1 to 14/10

SALARY RANGE:   $96,623 – $148,443

 

Salary in this range will be based on a multitude of factors including applicable rules, regulations and guidelines. 

OPENING DATE:   May 10, 2018

CLOSING DATE:  May 31, 2018

DURATION OF APPOINTMENT: 13-monthTerm

AREA OF CONSIDERATION:  Open to the Public

WORKSITE LOCATION:

Office of the Attorney General

   for the District of Columbia

Commercial Division

Land Use and Public Works Section

441 4th Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20001

NO. OF VACANCIES:  One (1)

This position is in the collective bargaining unit represented by AFGE Local 1403 and you may be required to pay an agency service fee through direct payroll deduction.

DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES:   The Land Use and Public Works Section provides legal assistance to District agencies with respect to land use planning, zoning, historic preservation, and the use of public space. 

The successful candidate will be responsible for attending, and providing legal guidance at, meetings and hearings of the Zoning Commission (ZC) (all held in the evening) and the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). He or she will work closely with the Director of the Office of Zoning and the Secretaries to the ZC and BZA in identifying potential legal issues arising before both bodies and will respond by providing memoranda of legal advice. The attorney will review complex orders filed in rulemakings and contested cases for legal sufficiency and draft such orders. In addition, the attorney will review covenants required in order to transfer development credits, effectuate planned unit developments, or close a public street or alley. 

QUALIFICATIONS:  Candidates must have at least five (5) years’ experience, preferably in land use law.  Candidates must also possess strong legal writing, analytical, and negotiation skills, possess knowledge of land use principles, and demonstrate familiarity with administrative procedures applicable to rulemakings and contested cases. Additionally, past experience analyzing and drafting statutes and rules, the ability to understand complex land use transactions, commitment to providing the highest level of customer service, and ability to work with agency staff are important. 

ELIGIBILITY:  The successful candidate must have a law degree and be an active member in good standing of the bar of any jurisdiction with the ability to be sworn into the District of Columbia Bar within 360 days of his/her initial appointment. 

OTHER INFORMATION:  The selected candidate will be subject to a background investigation including reference checks.

Please see below attachment for details.

Emoluments: Motion to Dismiss on Behalf of Defendant in his Individual Capacity

Kids have a better shot at a successful future when they are in the classroom learning. Policies that focus on preventing truancy support the most marginalized youth and increase public safety. This is why Attorney General Racine is combatting truancy in three ways: a program encouraging students to attend school; a program offering social supports to students who are truant; and a program for parents that helps them address attendance barriers for their children.

“I Belong Here” Program

The “I Belong Here” program is an effort to reduce truancy and encourage student attendance at an early age through a year-long attendance competition between classrooms. OAG staff serve as ambassadors for sixth-grade and seventh-grade homerooms, leading lesson plans on topics such as responsibility and empathy. Currently piloted at Sousa Middle School, the program is designed to disrupt the negative behaviors associated with truancy rates and positively reinforce the idea that students belong in school. Sousa Middle School was recently recognized as one of the schools with the most improved attendance rates in the District.

Social Supports for Truant Students

OAG is the agency responsible for prosecuting delinquent youth—but Attorney General Racine believes that for truancy, prosecution and involvement in the juvenile justice system should be the last resort, reserved for only the most chronically truant students after other social supports and school efforts have failed. To help support students, OAG partnered with the Department of Human Services (DHS) to implement a truancy reduction diversion program called the TRIAGE (Truancy Reduction Initiative and Gateway to Empowerment) Diversion Program. The TRIAGE program employs a functional family therapist who is co-located at OAG to help review all cases that are eligible for diversion; the therapist also links families with services. These behavioral health and community support services help youth and their families address root causes of truancy, while minimizing the likelihood of reoffending.   

Helping Parents Address Attendance Barriers

Working closely with the D.C. Superior Court and other stakeholders, OAG launched a diversion program to better serve the needs of parents who are subject to prosecution for failing to send their children to school—ATTEND (Abating Truancy Through Engagement and Negotiated Dialogue) Mediation Program. The Court’s Multi-Door Dispute Resolution program mediates cases between parents and the school in a neutral environment and links the parents through the Mayor’s Services Liaison Office (MSLO) to appropriate community-based services in lieu of prosecution. The goal of the program is to help children and their families address the underlying issues causing the chronic absenteeism while minimizing the likelihood of repeat referrals and giving parents the opportunity to avoid a criminal record. 

Emoluments: Standing Order and Opinion

Emoluments: Statement of Interest Regarding Individual Capacity Complaint

The District of Columbia et al. v. Trump: Order Granting Motion for Leave to Amend

Office of the Solicitor General
Office of the Attorney General

Salary range: $135,000 – $150,000
Closing: 03/27/18

This position is outside of the collective bargaining unit.

DESCRIPTION OF DUTIES: The Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia is seeking candidates for the position of Deputy Solicitor General.

The Office of the Solicitor General handles high-profile matters of both local and national importance, and is responsible for the District’s civil and criminal appellate litigation. The Office practices most frequently before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States. There are two Deputy Solicitors General who report to the Solicitor General and who are the immediate supervisors for a staff of assistant attorneys general and other administrative professionals.

This Deputy Solicitor General is responsible for civil and administrative appeals. (There is another Deputy Solicitor General responsible for criminal and juvenile appeals.) These appeals cover a tremendous variety of substantive areas including constitutional law, contracts, family law, torts, tax, and administrative law.

The Deputy Solicitor General has a leadership role in defending the interests of the District of Columbia. The duties of the Deputy Solicitor General include:

  • Consulting and coordinating with the Attorney General, the Solicitor General, and other senior management on matters which are pending, or may be brought, before the appellate courts.
  • Making recommendations to the Solicitor General on whether any matter should be pursued before the appellate courts, including recommendations on petitions for rehearing and certiorari.
  • Reviewing legal briefs drafted by the assistant attorneys general working for the Office of the Solicitor General to ensure high-quality written advocacy.
  • Participating in moot courts and attending oral arguments to ensure high-quality oral advocacy.
  • Monitoring cases on appeal and assigning appellate matters to appropriate staff.
  • Handling selected significant matters personally.
  • Supervising and evaluating the attorneys and support staff assigned to the Office of the Solicitor General.
  • Assisting in identifying training needs and suitable professional development programs for appellate advocacy and legal writing.
  • Monitoring the development of the law in the federal and local appellate courts.
  • Advising attorneys elsewhere in the District government on the effect of appellate decisions and on occasion helping draft legislation in response to such decisions.
  • Making recommendations to the Solicitor General on whether the District of Columbia should initiate or join amicus briefs with other state Attorneys General on issues of mutual interest.
  • Serving as acting Solicitor General when the Solicitor General is unavailable.

QUALIFICATIONS: This position requires substantial appellate litigation experience and previous managerial experience. Substantial knowledge of District of Columbia law is highly desirable though not required.

ELIGIBILITY: The successful candidate must have a law degree and be an active member in good standing of the bar of any jurisdiction. If not a member of the District of Columbia Bar, the candidate must be sworn into the District of Columbia Bar within 360 days of his/her initial appointment with the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.

Please see attachment for more information.

Immigration Guidance for Employers - Spanish