The Federal Government in the Fringe Economy

56 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 15 Jul 2011

See all articles by Jim Hawkins

Jim Hawkins

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: February 21, 2011


This paper is a contribution to Chapman Law Review’s symposium, From Wall Street to Main Street: The Future of Financial Regulation. It explores the Dodd-Frank Act’s creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and specifically assesses the Bureau’s new power to regulate alternative financial services providers like payday lenders, rent-to-own companies, pawnshops, and auto title lenders.

I advance two claims. First, I argue that the Consumer Financial Protection Act gives broad, novel powers to the Bureau to regulate fringe credit. Part I describes the scope of the Bureau’s power under the Act, demonstrating how the Act covers the vast majority of fringe credit transactions. Part II surveys the substance of the Act to reveal the surprising emphasis the Act places on the Bureau governing fringe banking transactions. The scope of the Bureau’s authority coupled with its substantive mandate to confront problems in fringe credit markets signal the new power and interest the federal government has taken in the fringe economy.

Second, I argue that most of the justifications that have been offered for the Bureau regulating fringe credit are flawed. To understand why people have contended the Bureau should govern the fringe economy, I surveyed the two most important academic articles arguing in favor of the Bureau, and I conducted an empirical study to measure the frequency of the rationales for the Bureau regulating fringe credit in media, government press releases, and testimony to Congress. Part III reports the results of the study, and it assesses the different rationales for the Bureau intervening in fringe credit markets.

Keywords: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, fringe banking, payday lending, rent-to-own, pawnshops, auto title lending, Dodd-Frank Act

Suggested Citation

Hawkins, Jim, The Federal Government in the Fringe Economy (February 21, 2011). Chapman Law Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, p. 23, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Jim Hawkins (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

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4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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