Court says president can fire consumer board head ‘at will’

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday made it easier for the president to fire the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The justices struck down restrictions Congress had written on when the president can remove the bureau’s director.

“The agency may … continue to operate, but its Director, in light of our decision, must be removable by the President at will,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

The court’s five conservative justices agreed that restrictions Congress imposed on when the president can fire the agency’s director violated the Constitution. But they disagreed on what to do as a result. Roberts and fellow conservative justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh said the restrictions could be stricken from the law. The court’s four liberals agreed, though they disagreed the restrictions were improper.

Under the Dodd-Frank Act that created the agency in response to the 2008 financial crisis, the CFPB’s director is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate to a five-year term. The law had said the president could only remove a director for “inefficiency, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office.” That structure could leave a new president with a director chosen by the previous administration.

The Trump administration argued that the restrictions improperly limit the power of the president.

“We hold that the CFPB’s leadership by a single individual removable only for inefficiency, neglect, or malfeasance violates the separation of powers,” Roberts wrote.

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