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Volume XII, Number 273

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District Court Grants Interlocutory Appeal in CFPB Enforcement Action against Student Loan Trusts and Stays Case Pending Appellate Review

On February 11, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware granted a motion for interlocutory appeal in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. The National Collegiate Master Student Loan Trusts filed by defendants The National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts (the “Trusts”) and certain interveners in the action.1  The district court certified two questions for review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit: (1) whether, under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”), the Trusts are “covered persons” subject to the CFPB enforcement authority; and (2) whether, after Collins v. Yellen, the CFPB was required to ratify the enforcement action before the three-year statute of limitations ran out.2  

Appellate review of the certified questions is not automatic, however.  As a next step, the Third Circuit will decide—in its discretion—whether to take up the appeal.3  If the Third Circuit grants review, an appeal will be docketed, and the court of appeals will consider the merits of the certified questions.  If instead the Third Circuit denies review,  no appeal will be docketed, and the enforcement action against the Trusts will proceed in district court.  The district court has stayed the CFPB’s enforcement action pending the Third Circuit’s review.4

As discussed in previous articles,5 the CFPB initiated an enforcement action directly against the Trusts in 2017, alleging that the Trusts had violated the CFPA by engaging in unfair and deceptive practices in connection with the servicing and collection of student loans.  The Trusts and certain interveners in the action filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Trusts are not “covered persons” under the CFPA because they are “passive securitization vehicles that take no action related to the servicing of student loans or collecting debt” and, thus, are not subject to the CFPB’s enforcement authority.6  The Trusts further argued that the action was untimely because the CFPB failed to ratify the suit before the statute of limitations expired, rendering the action time-barred.7 

Judge Stephanos Bibas, a visiting judge from the Third Circuit sitting by designation in the District of Delaware, rejected both arguments and denied the motion to dismiss.  On December 23, 2021, the Trusts and certain interveners filed a motion for interlocutory appeal of the district court’s order denying the motion to dismiss. On February 11, 2022, the district court granted the motion, ruling that (1) the questions raised in the Trusts’ motion involve “a controlling question of law”; (2) there is “substantial ground” for a difference of opinion in the interpretation of the controlling law; and (3) the interlocutory appeal would “advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.”8     

As we have previously noted,9 the district court’s interpretation of “covered person” under the CFPA is noteworthy and creates a new line of potential exposure for entities, including securitization trusts and other whole loan buyers, that acquire consumer loans on a servicing-retained basis or enter into servicing agreements with third-party servicers acting as independent contractors.  If interlocutory review is granted, the Third Circuit will be the first federal court of appeals to opine on the scope of the CFPA’s “covered person” definition as applied to securitization trusts, with important implications for any secondary market purchaser of a loan, including hedge funds and institutional investors (e.g., pension plans), with the possibility that all of them could become subject to the CFPB supervisory and enforcement jurisdiction to the extent such entities purchase consumer loans.


1 Memorandum Opinion at 2, No. 17-1323, ECF No. 397 (D. Del. Feb. 11, 2022).

2 Order at 1, No. 17-1323, ECF No. 398 (D. Del. Feb. 11, 2022).

See 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

4 Order, supra note 2, at 1.

See, e.g., Ellen Holloman et al.Federal Court Holds That Student Loan Trusts Are Subject to CFPB Enforcement Authority: What This Means for Consumer Securitizations and Other Whole Loan Buyers, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP (Dec. 15, 2021), https://www.cadwalader.com/resources/clients-friends-memos/federal-court-holds-that-student-loan-trusts-are-subject-to-cfpb-enforcement-authority--what-this-means-for-consumer-securitizations-and-other-whole-loan-buyers#_ftnref2; Ellen Holloman et al.CFPB Suit Against Student Loan Trusts Dismissed, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP (Apr. 1, 2021), https://www.cadwalader.com/resources/clients-friends-memos/cfpb-suit-against-student-loan-trusts-dismissed#_ftnref7; Ellen Holloman et al.Forward Movement in the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Student Loan Litigation: What This Means for Securitization, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP (Nov. 2, 2018), https://www.cadwalader.com/resources/clients-friends-memos/forward-movement-in-the-bureau-of-consumer-financial-protections-student-loan-litigation-what-this-means-for-securitization.

6 Memorandum Opinion at 8, No. 17-1323, ECF No. 380 (D. Del. Dec. 13, 2022).

Id. at 5-6.

8 Memorandum Opinion, supra note 1, at 3-4, 6-7.  Further supporting this conclusion, Judge Bibas recalled that the previously assigned judge, Judge Maryellen Noreika, “expressed ‘some doubt’ that the Trusts are covered persons ‘under the plain language of the statute.’”  Id. at 5.

9 Holloman, Federal Court Holds That Student Loan Trusts Are Subject to CFPB Enforcement Authority: What This Means for Consumer Securitizations and Other Whole Loan Buyerssupra note 4.

Chris Gavin, Stuart Goldstein, and Victor Celis also contributed to this article.

© Copyright 2022 Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 47
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About this Author

Ellen Holloman, Attorney, New York City, Cadwalader Law Firm
Partner

Ellen Holloman is a partner in Cadwalader’s Global Litigation Group. She focuses her practice on representing financial institutions, corporations and individuals in regulatory enforcement proceedings, corporate internal investigations and related civil litigation.  She has significant experience in securities class action litigation and in representing clients in corporate governance matters, contract and post-acquisition disputes, and employment-related claims, including for enforcement of non-compete, non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. She also frequently...

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Rachel Rodman Corporate Litigation Attorney Cadwalader Washington, DC
Partner

Rachel Rodman is an experienced litigator who focuses her practice on defending banks, specialty finance companies and other financial services institutions in investigations and enforcement actions by federal and state agencies, supervisory actions and consumer protection civil litigation. 

Rachel has significant experience in government investigations and litigation relating to consumer financial products and services. She regularly represents depository institutions, finance companies and other market participants in enforcement and supervisory actions by federal banking...

202-862-2210
Daniel Meade Bank Regulation Attorney Cadwalader Washington DC
Partner

Daniel Meade is a partner in Cadwalader’s bank regulatory practice in Washington, DC. He has substantial experience in sophisticated transactional bank regulatory issues, such as bank M&A, the Volcker Rule, bank powers, affiliate transactions, Basel III capital, tying, AML, sanctions, and Bank Holding Company Act issues.  

Dan most recently served as Senior Vice President and Managing Counsel at Wells Fargo, where he led a team providing advice to Wells Fargo’s Regulatory Relations and Government Relations and Public Policy functions....

202-862-2294
Cheryl D. Barnes, Cadwalader, Finance lawyer
Partner

Cheryl Barnes has more than 10 years of experience in securities and structured finance matters.

She represents a number of investment banks, commercial banks, government-sponsored enterprises, and other financial institutions. She has acted as issuer's or underwriter's counsel on over one thousand securitized offerings, including both MBS and ABS offerings based on student loans and mortgage loans, among others. Cheryl also has extensive experience with mortgage pass-throughs and REMICs.

Cheryl was recently recognized among the ...

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