Trump-Appointed Judge Halts Biden Rule Capping Credit Card Fees

Olivia Rosane, Common Dreams

A Trump-appointed judge on Friday delivered a win for big banks when he granted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce a temporary injunction halting a Biden administration rule that would cap credit card fees at $8.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule, which would have gone into effect May 14, could save U.S. consumers more than $10 billion each year. The decision to pause its implementation, issued by U.S. District of the Northern District of Texas Judge Mark Pittman, will cost ordinary Americans around $27 million each day it is in effect.

In their latest in a stack of lawsuits designed to pad record corporate profits at the expense of everyone else, the U.S. Chamber got its way for now—ensuring families get price-gouged a little longer with credit card late fees as high as $41,” Liz Zelnick, the director of the Economic Security and Corporate Power Program at Accountable.US, said in a statement.

The CFPB issued the rule on March 5 as part of the Biden administration’s commitment to crack down on “junk fees.” However, the Chamber of Commerce and other banking trade associations—including the American Bankers Association and the Consumer Bankers Association—quickly sued to block it. The executives of Bank of America, Capital One, Citibank, and JPMorgan Chase sit on the boards of the groups behind the suit, according to The Washington Post.

“Banks make billions in profits charging excessive late fees,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote on social media Saturday in response to the ruling. “Now a single Trump-appointed judge sided with bank lobbyists to block the Biden administration’s new rule capping these junk fees.”

Accountable.US also criticized the fact that the suit was before Pittman at all, arguing that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed the suit in Texas federal court so that it would end up under the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has 19 Republican-appointed justices out of a total of 26. The chamber has filed nearly two-thirds of its lawsuits since 2017 with courts covered by the 5th Circuit.

“The U.S. Chamber and the big banks they represent have corrupted our judicial system by venue shopping in courtrooms of least resistance, going out of their way to avoid having their lawsuit heard by a fair and neutral federal judge,” Zelnick said. “It’s time the U.S. Chamber stops clogging the courts with baseless lawsuits designed to enrich corporate CEOs on the backs of working families—and it’s time the judiciary stops legitimizing venue shopping from big industry.”

The 5th Circuit’s treatment of the case has also come under fire, as Trump-appointed Judge Don Willett has not recused himself despite the fact that he owns tens of thousands of dollars in Citigroup shares. While Willett has argued that Citigroup is not a party to the case, it belongs to trade groups that are, and any ruling on credit card fees would significantly impact the bank. Collectively, all the judges on the 5th Circuit have invested as much as $745,000 in credit card or credit issuing companies, according to the most recent publicly available information.

Donald Sherman, Gabe Lezra, and Linnaea Honl-Stuenkel of Citizens for Ethics in Washington wrote: “Judge Willett’s refusal to recuse, and the lack of transparency about the rationale, reinforces the need for more judicial ethics reform to ensure that everyday Americans and government agencies have a level playing field when they go into court against corporate interests.”

 

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