Washington (AFP) - The US Justice Department on Friday took the unusual step of siding against another government agency in a high-stakes court case, another signal of the Trump administration's move away from regulation.
The court case hinges on whether President Donald Trump can fire the head of an agency designed to protect consumers from abuses by banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions.
Trump has vowed to scale back the reforms adopted in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, including creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) -- part of his broader moves to strip back regulations that the administration says hampers business.
The Justice Department argued that the structure of the CFPB was unconstitutional, and the president should have the power to fire the bureau's director.
The bureau was created under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation in the wake of the crisis, other aspects of which have come under attack from Republicans in Congress.
Like multi-member government commissions, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the president can only dismiss the CFPB director for some serious misconduct or other legitimate complaint.
In the so-called friend-of-the-court brief, the Justice Department said the bureau should not have that protection and the president should be able to dismiss the CFPB chief at any time for any reason, like other cabinet members.
"There is a greater risk that an 'independent' agency headed by a single person will engage in extreme departures from the president's executive policy," the filing said.
The arguments sided with PHH Corp, a mortgage lender suing the CFPB and challenging its authority in a case now before a federal appeals court in Washington.
The court in October found the CFPB's independence was unconstitutional, a ruling the bureau is now seeking to have reversed.