On December 7, 2020, the Center joined a coalition of consumer advocates in an amicus brief filed in support of the Federal Trade Commission in FTC v. AMG Capital Management, a critical case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Center’s partners in this effort included the National Consumer Law Center, the Center for Consumer Law & Education, the Housing Clinic of Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at Yale Law School, and Professor Craig Cowie from the University of Montana School of Law. The same group of amici filed a successful brief last term in Seila Law v. CFPB
The central question before the Supreme Court in this case is whether the FTC may require that businesses that defraud consumers provide restitution to their victims. Although the FTC has over recent decades returned billions of dollars to consumers’ pockets, the FTC Act does not specifically list “restitution” as one of the forms of relief available under the FTC Act. For the FTC to be effective, it is vital that the agency be able not only to put a stop to illegal behavior, but also to make consumers whole.
The consumer law centers’ amicus brief emphasizes the authority of federal district courts to provide restitution in cases brought by the FTC. First, the equitable powers of federal courts gives them the authority to order remedies, including restitution, in order to do complete justice. Second, courts have traditionally used their equitable powers to provide relief to victims of consumer fraud, and in particular to vulnerable populations including seniors, veterans, and disabled consumers. Third, the FTC has been able to provide restitution as a remedy for decades, and Congress has taken no action to the contrary despite having taken other steps to reduce the FTC’s powers.
The FTC plays a signal role in advocating for vulnerable consumers who have lost money to perpetrators of predatory business practices. In most cases that the agency brings, a large number of people have lost relatively small amounts of money and do not have the resources or ability to file a lawsuit on their own behalf.
The American public has an acute need for an agency able to return money to those from whom it has been wrongfully taken. The Center is grateful to have been able to help bring that need to the Court’s attention.