On March 9, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) could issue a controversial “Administrator’s Interpretation,” which had concluded in 2010 that loan officers in the mortgage banking industry generally do not qualify as exempt from overtime under the administrative exemption of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Supreme Court reversed a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that had struck down the DOL administrative ruling. The Mortgage Bankers Association had challenged the 2010 Interpretation in court, arguing that because the DOL had previously issued an Opinion Letter in 2006 determining that loan officers could generally qualify as exempt from overtime under the administrative exemption, the DOL could not change its prior position without first issuing a written notice and allowing a comment period pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act. However, the Supreme Court in a 9-0 decision ruled that because the 2006 DOL Opinion Letter was itself merely an interpretation of an existing rule and not a new rule with the force and effect of law, DOL could reverse its prior position and issue a new interpretation without a prior notice and comment rulemaking.
In the wake of the Great Recession, numerous federal government actors have sought to limit, and in some cases, eliminate, the inclusion of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in consumer financial services contracts. For instance, in 2010, as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the “Dodd-Frank Act”), Congress amended the federal Truth-in-Lending Act to prohibit the use of pre-dispute arbitration provisions in residential mortgage contracts and home-equity line-of-credit agreements. See 15 U.S.C. § 1639c(e)(1). Now, acting pursuant to a mandate provided by the Dodd-Frank Act, see 12 U.S.C. § 5518(a), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) has joined the hunt. On March 9, 2015, the CFPB issued a report to Congress that appears to put the use of such agreements in all consumer financial services agreements – including credit card, checking account, and payday loan agreements – in the agency’s cross-hairs.