The Unwarranted Regulatory Preemption of Predatory Lending Laws
In response to a perceived increase in the incidence of predatory lending, several states have recently enacted laws designed to protect vulnerable borrowers from abusive lenders. Earlier this year, however, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) determined that the new laws conflicted with the National Bank Act and issued a regulation preempting them. This Note argues that the OCC overstepped its congressionally delegated authority when it promulgated the regulation, and that courts should consequently invalidate it in order to allow states to continue to develop novel legislative responses to the growing problem of abusive lending. The Note proceeds in two stages. First, after canvassing the unsettled case law on the issue, it argues that courts should not categorically defer to agency decisions to preempt state laws. Because of the relative ease with which administrative agencies can preempt state laws and the real threat that preemption orders pose to state legislative independence, the judiciary should scrutinize agency preemption decisions to ensure that they are at the very least reasonable. Second, the Note turns to the substance of the OCC order, contending that it reflects an unwarranted, unnecessary, and unwise effort to meddle in states’ purely internal affairs. Because the predatory lending laws only minimally affect national bank lending powers, do not impose costs on the national banking system, and do not generate spillover effects, they do not interfere with national banks in a way that can justify the OCC’s wholesale preemption.