WASHINGTON, DC — In a major setback for American consumers, tonight the right-tilted U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals once again blocked an order from Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman to transfer the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit against the CFPB’s credit card late fee rule to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia where it belongs. Judge Pittman has criticized the corporate-funded U.S. Chamber for blatant judge shopping seeking preferential treatment, saying, “Venue is not a continental breakfast; you cannot pick and choose on a plaintiffs’ whim where and how a lawsuit is filed.”  Government watchdog Accountable.US condemned the 5th Circuit’s decision to force the lawsuit to remain under their jurisdiction as clear judicial overreach that the U.S. Chamber and the big banks they represent were hoping for. 

The U.S. Chamber has grasped at straws insisting their lawsuit belongs in Texas and the jurisdiction of the Fifth Circuit based on nothing more than its co-plaintiff, Synchrony Bank, is a member of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce — despite being an online bank with only a single branch 1,200 miles away in Utah

The far-right Fifth Circuit’s latest power grab and blatant judicial overreach perfectly exemplifies why Congress must pass enforceable judicial ethics reforms,” said Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone. “The Fifth Circuit stuck its nose in several times to help ensure the U.S. Chamber and the big banks they represent got exactly what they wanted in a case that could cost vulnerable Americans billions of dollars.

The U.S. Chamber’s legal strategy all along was to go judge shopping in Texas in hopes of eventually facing the 5th Circuit where they expect a sympathetic ear in their mission to enshrine credit card late fees as high as $41 to maximize corporate profits. Once again, the 5th Circuit is eagerly playing along with a well-known scheme by conservatives to manipulate the judicial system for political and corporate gain.

Until Congress passes urgently needed judicial reform, big corporations and far-right legal groups will continue to clog the court system and exploit venue shopping to get favorable rulings that threaten to roll back rights for everyday Americans,” added Ciccone. “Industry CEOs and their allies on the far-right have been trying to game the system by picking and choosing judges to get the rulings they want for far too long.”


A new Accountable.US analysis found that despite Synchrony’s Q1 2024 earnings doubling compared to Q1 2023 and plans to spend as much as $1.3 billion on stock buybacks by this time next year, their execs boasted their defiance to the credit card late fee rule on their investor call that they “weren’t going to wait for the outcome of the litigation” and that they had already begun implementing a $1.99 paper statement fee per card and APR increases to as high as 39.99%.  

Despite doubling quarterly profits and having enough fun money left to reward wealthy investors with over billion dollars in new handouts, Synchrony Bank is jacking up their interest rates to predatory levels and are laughably trying to blame the administration for making them do it,” said Ciccone. “Synchrony’s own earnings reports show no one is making them price-gouge everyday borrowers but their own greedy executives. It’s remarkable the corporate-funded U.S. Chamber thought recruiting Synchrony Bank added credibility to their baseless lawsuit against the Biden administration crackdown on credit card late fees.”

What You Need to Know About the History of the Fifth Circuit’s Swampy Ties to the U.S. Chamber and Other 5th Circuit Conflicts of Interest: 

  • JUDGE SHOPPING: The U.S. Chamber predictably sued the Biden administration in Texas federal court to ensure it fell under the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals where 19 out of the 26 judges were appointed by Republicans, including 6 by Donald Trump. An Accountable.US analysis found that since Donald Trump took office in January 2017, roughly 63% of the U.S. Chamber’s lawsuits challenging federal regulations were filed within district courts under the Fifth Circuit’s jurisdiction. 

Another recent Accountable.US report, released in the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision rejecting the judge-shopped mifepristone challenge, details the key judge-shopped cases originating in Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s courtroom in Northern Texas.  

  • CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Trump-appointed 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Don Willett decided not to recuse himself in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s lawsuit against the CFPB’s credit card late fee rule even though Politico reported Willett’s most recent financial disclosure report lists up to tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of shares in Citigroup, a bank greatly impacted by the CFPB’s action capping credit card late fees and that is also member of the trade groups behind the lawsuit including the U.S. Chamber, American Bankers Association and Consumer Bankers Association. In addition, an Accountable.US review found Fifth Circuit judges have collectively reported up to $745,000 in investments in credit card or credit issuing companies in their most recently available public financial disclosures.
  • THE SWAMP: An Accountable.US report found the U.S. Chamber heavily funds the Federalist Society—which has paid thousands of dollars in travel expenses for Fifth Circuit judges—donating between $800k to nearly $1.2M since 2008. Several attorneys at the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center are contributors to the Federalist Society. The Chamber has also frequently partnered with the law firm Wiley Rein LLP, self-described as DC’s “secret firm” where several of the firm’s partners were also law clerks for numerous Fifth Circuit judges. In addition, several of the U.S. Chamber’s own personnel, and firms the group works with to protect corporations, have served as law clerks for several current Fifth Circuit judges on the court.
  • U.S. CHAMBER REPRESENTS BIG BANK CEOs, NOT SMALL BIZ: Among the U.S. Chamber’s members are major credit card issuers JPMorgan, American Express, Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo which collectively charged consumers billions in credit card late fees and other service charges in 2023 alone, a recent Accountable.US analysis found.
  • A BASELESS CASE: An Accountable.US analysis dispelled top myths employed by the credit card industry to excuse hidden and excessive late fees – including claims that lowering these junk fees will somehow have adverse effects on borrowers and that high credit card fees are somehow beneficial to consumers. Another Accountable.US analysis of recent corporate earnings and legal settlements debunked dubious claims from big bank CEOs that claim they cannot maintain profits without high-cost junk fees.





back to top