On March 22, 2016, the United States Supreme Court issued its first 4-4 split decision since the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. In Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore, No. 14-520 (U.S. Mar. 22, 2016), the Court reviewed whether the Federal Reserve Board (“FRB”) exceeded its authority when it amended Regulation B, implementing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”), to cover loan “guarantors” as loan “applicants.” In a per curiam opinion, the Court affirmed the determination of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit that (1) the plain language of ECOA excludes loan guarantors from the definition of loan applicants authorized to bring an antidiscrimination suit under the statute, and thus (2) the FRB’s conflicting amendment was not entitled to deference to be afforded to regulations that interpret silent or ambiguous statutory provisions. Yet, the Court’s even split means that Hawkins will be binding precedent only in the Eighth Circuit and not nationwide.
The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari to decide whether the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) excludes loan guarantors from the definition of “applicants” entitled to bring suit under the Act. See Hawkins v. Community Bank of Raymore, No. 14-520 (U.S. Mar. 2, 2015). Specifically, the Court will decide whether the Federal Reserve Board exceeded its authority in its 2003 amendment to Regulation B, the regulation implementing ECOA, to purportedly bring guarantors within the ambit of ECOA’s protection. The Court’s decision may have far-reaching implications for lenders extending credit guaranteed by a non-borrower.