Todd Zywicki

Todd Zywicki

  • Senior Scholar
  • Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • George Mason University Foundation
  • Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law

Todd Zywicki is a senior scholar and senior fellow with the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and Foundation Professor of Law at George Mason University School of Law. He specializes in bankruptcy, contracts, commercial law, business associations, law and economics, and public choice and the law.

Professor Zywicki has testified before Congress on consumer bankruptcy and consumer credit, and he frequently commentates in print and broadcast media, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, the Atlantic, Nightline, NBC Nightly News, PBS Newshour, Fox Business, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg News, BBC, ABC Radio, and The Diane Rehm Show. He writes for the legal blog the Volokh Conspiracy and is an editor of the Supreme Court Economic Review.

Previously, Zywicki was director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and taught at Vanderbilt University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Boston College Law School, and Mississippi College School of Law.

Zywicki received his JD from the University of Virginia, his MA in economics from Clemson University, and his BA in economics from Dartmouth College.

View PDF of Curriculum Vitae.

Published Research

Todd Zywicki, Robert L. Clarke | Apr 01, 2014
In response to the financial crisis that began in 2008, in 2010 President Obama signed into law the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as the “Dodd-Frank Act." A “centerpiece of the [new law] was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”),” which was established in response to the perception of widespread failures in the federal consumer protection regime with respect to financial products and the belief that these regulatory failures contributed to the financial crisis.
G. Michael Flores, Todd Zywicki | Nov 04, 2013
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its initial analysis of bank overdraft programs in a June 2013 white paper. We review the report and provide commentary on its methodology, its preliminary conclusions, and gaps in its analysis. We provide a synopsis of findings from previous third-party analyses to lay the foundation for our response, and then we follow the paper’s organizational structure as we discuss specific points it makes. We also identify the larger policy questions of access to credit, alternative sources of credit, and the economic benefit attained by the use of overdrafts. These questions must be addressed before the bureau can make any findings of consumer harm that would justify new regulation and the resultant unintended consequences of limiting options to the consumers the CFPB is structured to protect.
Todd Zywicki | Apr 2013
Proponents of the CFPB argue that extreme independence is justified to insulate it from political pressures. But the history of regulation teaches that insulation can be isolation, resulting in inefficient regulation. Scholars over the past several decades have identified common pathologies associated with bureaucratic behavior. The CFPB’s structure virtually guarantees the manifestation of those pathologies in practice: excessive risk aversion, agency imperialism, and tunnel vision. Indeed, it is as if the CFPB were an agency frozen in amber during the Nixon Administration and thawed out today, completely unaware of the past several decades’ lessons on how to structure an effective regulatory strategy.
Todd Zywicki, Nick Tuszynski | May 09, 2012
Regulators cannot wish away consumers’ need for credit, and eliminating access to overdraft protection will not correspondingly eliminate this need.

Working Papers

Todd Zywicki | Sep 29, 2015
A new paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University reviews the law and economics of consumer debt collection and its regulation and concludes that the CFPB should consider all the potential consequences of new regulation—both intended and unintended—to ensure that it will benefit consumers.
Jason Scott Johnston , Todd Zywicki | Aug 03, 2015
In a new study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, law professors Jason Scott Johnston and Todd Zywicki provide an overview and critique of the CFPB’s report. The study criticizes the report using primarily evidence supplied by the report itself. The CFPB’s findings show that arbitration is relatively fair and successful at resolving a range of disputes between consumers and providers of consumer financial products, and that regulatory efforts to limit the use of arbitration will likely leave consumers worse off.
Adam C. Smith, Todd Zywicki | Mar 11, 2014
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is one of the most powerful and least accountable regulatory agencies in American history. Immune from budgetary oversight by Congress and headed by a single director whom the president cannot remove except under special circumstances, the agency wields unconstrained, vaguely defined powers to regulate virtually every consumer and small business credit product in America (Zywicki 2013a). In part, the CFPB has justified its ongoing intervention into financial credit markets based on a prior belief in the inability of consumers to competently weigh their decisions. This belief is founded on research conducted in the area of behavioral economics, which shows that people are prone to a variety of errors in their decision-making.
Robert L. Clarke, Todd Zywicki | Nov 21, 2013
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is considering new regulation of payday lending and bank overdraft protection. The Dodd-Frank Act, which established the CFPB, recognizes that consumers benefit from competition among providers of consumer credit products. That law requires the CFPB to preserve fair competition by providing consistent regulatory treatment of similar products offered by both bank and nonbank lenders. We illustrate how this mandate for fair competition applies to the regulation of payday lending and bank overdraft protection, products that are offered by different entities but attract an overlapping customer base, compete with each other directly, and raise similar consumer protection concerns. Unequal regulation would provide a competitive advantage for one product over another, resulting in reduced choice and higher prices for consumers, without a corresponding increase in consumer protection. Therefore, as the CFPB considers new regulation of these products, it should be careful to regulate them similarly to preserve fair competition.


Policy Briefs

Todd Zywicki, Robert Sarvis | Jan 14, 2013
Government regulators proposing restrictions on specific forms of consumer credit all too often ignore the reality of how and why consumers use credit. They also ignore lenders’ legitimate reasons for pricing their services as they do; consumers’ legitimate reasons for choosing the financing options they do; the risks consumers face when credit offerings are made unavailable to them; and the many consumers who use the particular forms of consumer credit responsibly and effectively.
Todd Zywicki, Astrid Arca | Jan 11, 2010
In the wake of the financial crisis, Congress is considering new regulations on non-traditional lending products like payday lending, although there is no evidence that such products were related in…
Todd Zywicki, Gabriel Lucjan Okolski | Nov 2009
One can hardly turn on a TV without seeing commercials in which cash-strapped individuals bring their car titles to a lender for quick and easy loans. While auto title lending may appear to be…
Stefanie Haeffele-Balch, Todd Zywicki | Oct 2009
In an effort to correct problems that led to the current housing and mortgage crisis, policy makers have proposed a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) that would have the authority to…

Testimony & Comments

Jason Scott Johnston , Todd Zywicki, Michael Wilt | Aug 22, 2016
The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (the Bureau) proposes a rule to prohibit mandatory arbitration agreements in consumer financial-product or service contracts. The Bureau bases its proposed rulemaking on findings from its 2015 study, which was mandated by Congress under Section 1028(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act. In a new public interest comment for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, University of Virginia law professor Jason S. Johnston, George Mason University law professor Todd J. Zywicki, and Mercatus Center senior policy writer Michael P. Wilt examine the Bureau’s proposed rule and findings, and they demonstrate that the Bureau’s data and analysis are often inconsistent, inadequate, and flawed. Because of flaws in the methodology and data, the Bureau’s 2015 study should not be used as the basis for any regulatory proposal to limit the use of consumer arbitration. Furthermore, regulatory efforts to limit the use of arbitration will likely leave consumers worse off. A deeper analysis of the Bureau’s data shows that arbitration is, in reality, relatively fair and successful at resolving a range of disputes between consumers and providers of consumer financial products.
Todd Zywicki | Jul 10, 2012
Much of the government’s political intervention in the bankruptcy cases appears to have been motivated to benefit the UAW rather than the companies themselves over U.S. taxpayers, who put billions of dollars at risk to fund the bailouts.
Todd Zywicki, | Jun 28, 2012
Profits gained from overdraft protection have been used by banks to expand services and accessibility for customers both rich and poor, and limiting overdraft protection may threaten many of the benefits that it makes possible.
Todd Zywicki | May 24, 2011
Todd Zywicki testified before the House Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs.

Research Summaries & Toolkits

Expert Commentary

By Todd Zywicki, Jason Johnston |
Dec 09, 2015

Early in October, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unleashed its latest effort to remake the American consumer credit system. This time, the bureau is targeting the provisions in consumer credit contracts that require disputes to be handled through arbitration rather than class action lawsuits. Our recent Mercatus Center working paper suggests that-despite the consumer protection rhetoric-class action lawyers, not consumers, will benefit from the bureau's anti-arbitration efforts.
Nov 18, 2015

While we can be confident that new regulations for the debt collection industry are on the way, it's not yet clear whether those regulations will help or harm consumers. The result is largely dependent upon the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has the opportunity to either help facilitate open, constructive communication between consumers and debt collection firms, or to saddle the industry and consumers with hasty regulations that result in unintended consequences.
Jun 30, 2015

Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled House Financial Services Committee voted out 11 bipartisan reforms to the Dodd-Frank Act, including two (H.R. 1265 and H.R. 1195) that would write into law certain practices that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has voluntarily adopted. And while the committee's ranking member, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., expressed support for the mandates as harmless, she also criticized them for "unnecessarily" codifying into law policies that the bureau already put into place.
By Todd Zywicki, Thomas A. Durkin |
Apr 17, 2015

Consumer credit is often thought to be just a way to live beyond one’s means and to shift consumption – to spend today instead of saving for tomorrow. But the assumption that families use credit profligately is misleading. To understand how consumers use credit – and why it is a boon to American families and the economy – it is useful to understand how businesses use credit.


Todd Zywicki



Todd Zywicki | April 24, 2015
Coauthor of the book “Consumer Credit and the American Economy” Todd Zywicki discusses how easily-available credit helps American families through tough times and insulates them from economic turndowns in this segment on Ed Dean Radio.
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