Seminar in Commercial Law: Consumer Credit

L703 is taught by P. Foohey

Consumer credit in America is in a state of flux. With the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010, consumers gained a federal agency devoted to assessing and regulating issues with consumer credit that plague individuals and families. State and federal legislatures likewise have taken significant policy actions aimed at consumer credit. As if in sync with the law s dynamic state, the business of consumer credit itself is changing.

This course primarily uses consumer bankruptcy filing data as a lens to study the role consumer credit in the United States economy and society. The course will focus on critical issues regarding consumer debt and consumer law through inquiries into key aspects of the consumer bankruptcy system, including who files bankruptcy, what causes bankruptcy, the consequences of bankruptcy, and the operation of the bankruptcy system. These inquiries will allow for discussion of a range of consumer debt: mortgages, medical debt, student loans, credit cards, automobile loans, payday and title loans, and fees associated with bank accounts and prepaid debit cards. Readings will come from law and non-law sources, including the work of a variety of social scientists. The course will discuss issues relevant to the legal system and the study of law generally, including the use of data to measure legal problems, the role of lawyer and non-lawyer actors, and the nature of modern policymaking.

Besides weekly readings and one short (5 page) writing assignment, the primary assignment for the course will be a final paper of 20-30 pages in length. The paper will take the form of a proposal for further study of an aspect of the consumer credit or bankruptcy system, addressed to a fictitious grant-giving agency, that (1) identifies and describes a problem regarding consumer credit or bankruptcy that is causing a harm, and (2) proposes how that problem should be studied, including a list of key questions that need to be investigated to determine how to address the harm. Students will present their final papers during the last two weeks of the seminar.

Students will gain only a basic familiarity with the Bankruptcy Code and the practice of bankruptcy law. There are no prerequisites