Sovern Interviewed on Sirius XM, Quoted in Law360, Bloomberg, Elsewhere

On Saturday, January 13, Sirius XM’s Insights channel ran a 15-minute interview with Professor Jeff Sovern on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sovern spoke on The Briefing Powered by Dartmouth about the CFPB’s origins, accomplishments, and future.


Jeff Sovern

Law360 quoted Sovern in a pair of articles. A January 17 article headlined “Mulvaney Opens Review That Could Declaw CFPB” explained:

“The other issue with making the CID process the first item up for comment is that the public does not really understand the issue in a way that would allow them to comment,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

“The industry, however, has strong opinions about the process,” he said.

“Starting with CIDs makes it look like he’s trying to protect financial institutions,” Sovern said.

And an article published November 27, titled “CFPB’s Temporary Leadership Hinges On Judge’s Analysis” included the following:

“In order for Judge Kelly to rule in English’s favor, he is going to have to determine that language in the Dodd-Frank Act that establishes the line of succession at the CFPB should the director be ‘absent’ or ‘unavailable’ preempts the Federal Vacancies Reform Act,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law.

“As for the definitions of ‘absence’ and ‘unavailable,’ within the meaning of the Dodd-Frank Act, I think those are a key part of English’s argument. If she can’t show the director is absent or unavailable, it is hard to see how she wins,” he said.

Bloomberg Law also quoted Sovern in a November story headlined “CFPB Leadership Lawsuit May Be Headed to Appeals Court”:

Jeff Sovern, Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law in New York City, sees the case differently. Even if the administration is correct that the Vacancies Act applies to the CFPB, it shouldn’t take precedence over Dodd-Frank unless it wasn’t possible to put the Dodd-Frank succession provisions to work. For example, if the CFPB didn’t have a deputy director as envisioned by the Dodd-Frank provisions, the Vacancies Act might then kick in. But not before, he told Bloomberg Law.

“In my view, if the Vacancies Act applies at all, it does so only if the Dodd-Frank provision could not operate because, for example, there is no deputy director, as could easily have been the case if former Director Cordray had not named English to that position last week,” Sovern said.

Big if True also quoted Sovern and cited one of his articles, in a January 16 report:

“The concern I have is that the swamp might be swallowing the bureau up. I just hope that’s not true,” said Jeff Sovern, a professor of law who specializes in consumer issues at St. John’s University.

* * *
Although conservatives frequently claim that the free market is sufficient to hold industry accountable, St. John’s law professor Sovern argued in this paper that the free market is ill equipped to protect consumers who have incomplete information. He also pointed out that Wells Fargo’s number of checking accounts increased despite publicity of its fraudulent accounts, suggesting the free market didn’t actually discipline the bank.

“So, the free market works very well for things consumers can understand and make a choice as to what’s best for them,” Sovern said. “But for things where consumers don’t get a choice or don’t understand their choice, … the free market works less well, and we need a substitute. One possible substitute is regulation.”


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