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Consumer Law and Policy Blog Reports: “Grand Theft Auto, or Preemption Run Amok”

 

Consumer Law and Policy Blog Reports:

In a case now before the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Chase Bank asserts that it may repossess an auto loan borrower’s car without complying with consumer protections in state commercial law. The Maryland District Court found for Chase Bank, concluding that 1) the National Bank Act preempts state repossession notice law and 2) Chase was not bound by the mandatory loan contract term specifically incorporating Maryland repossession law, because as an assignee of the contract, Chase had not voluntarily agreed (!) to the choice of law provision.

The opening brief of the appellants is here and the lower court opinion is here. The logic of the lower court opinion is remarkable. It seems to suggest that even the repossession rules of Article 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code could be preempted by the National Bank Act and OCC regulations. What is truly extraordinary, however, is the idea that a national bank could on the one hand invoke the privilege, created by the UCC and other state law, to repossess collateral without judicial process, while on the other hand disregarding the restrictions and consumer protections that accompany that privilege. If the entirety of state commercial and debt collection law conflicts with the National Bank Act, then there was no state law basis for Chase to seize Ms. Epps’ car, and the purported repossession was nothing more than grand theft.


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