Showing posts with label Navient Solutions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Navient Solutions. Show all posts

Friday, June 9, 2017

If Trump Will Let CFPB Survive Their Work Will Protect Small Business Loans and Student Loans--essay by Steve Rhode

I can’t imagine a measure of the the amount of effort that has been invested into making sure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is wiped off the face of the earth.

Big business and companies wanting consumers to have less power in the financial world are not excited about the CFPB that has been fighting hard to protect consumers from scams and schemes to rip them off.

In the coming years, if the CFPB survives, they are planning on targeting mortgage loan servicing, student loan servicing, and small business lending to make sure consumers are not getting to get screwed by these entities.

Some people want government out of our lives at nearly all costs. But for all those who politically want the CFPB to go away there is one simple issue that should change your mind. Let’s be honest. big business has more money to fight back against consumers and people just do have the resources to make much of a difference when they get screwed over by their financial company.

Sure, there have been some hit and miss victories by the lone consumer but for the most part, the deep pockets win.

Take private student loans for example. Consumers could discharge a lot of private student loan debt in bankruptcy or invalidate it. But people don’t have the resources to wage these battles and fight back against the lenders. So guess what, lives are ruined.

The CFPB represents at least one entity that works hard to fight for consumers. It creates leverage against deceptive and abusive financial practices that take advantage of consumers. But in this atmosphere of America First – Consumers Last, the Trump Administration wants the CFPB to go away. According to USA Today, “the Department of Justice argued in an amicus brief that the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the watchdog created after the financial crisis during the Obama administration, is unconstitutional.” Even the federal government wants consumer protections to vanish.

Wanting to make the CFPB go away from defending consumers does not make the underlying problems go away or increase the defense of people just like you when you get scammed and ripped off.

The CFPB has been fighting back to protect consumers by filing suit against Navient for not providing advice to help consumers. Navients response is they don’t have to provide good advice, just collect on loans. And Navient even knew they were peddling loans that were not affordable when they pushed them on students.

So let’s let the CFPB fight back to protect people with student loan issues and small business loans. The only thing you have to lose is a better financial future and more protections for those you love.
Steve Rhode

Get Out of Debt GuyTwitter, G+, Facebook

If you have a credit or debt question you’d like to ask, just click here and ask away.
This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.


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I am in total agreement with Mr. Rhode regarding the value of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The the Trump administration should  support the CFPB its mission, including the protection of student borrowers from unscrupulous for-profit college and ruthless student-loan debt collectors.

Richard Fossey

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic and The Student Loan Crisis: Is there a link?

James Howard Kunstler wrote one of his best essays recently about America's opioid epidemic, and he began with this observation:
 While the news waves groan with stories about "America's Opioid Epidemic," you may discern that there is little effort to actually understand what's behind it, namely the fact that life in the United States has become unspeakably depressing, empty, and purposeless for a large class of citizens.
Kunstler went on to describe life in small towns and rural America: the empty store fronts, abandoned houses, neglected fields, and "the parasitical national chain stores like tumors at the edge of every town."

Kunstler also commented on people's physical appearance in backwater America: "prematurely old, fattened and sickened by bad food made to look and taste irresistible to con those sick in despair." And he described how many people living in the forgotten America spend their time: "trash television, addictive computer games, and their own family melodramas concocted to give some narrative meaning to lives otherwise bereft of event or effort."

There are no jobs in flyover America. No wonder opioid addiction has become epidemic in the old American heartland. No wonder death rates are going up for working-class white Americans--spiked by suicide, alcohol and drug addiction.

I myself come from the desperate heartland Kunstler described. Anadarko, Oklahoma, county seat of Caddo County, made the news awhile back due to four youth suicides in quick succession--all accomplished with guns. Caddo County, shaped liked the state of Utah, can easily be spotted on the New York Times map showing where drug deaths are highest in the United States. Appalachia, eastern Oklahoma, the upper Rio Grande Valley, and yes--Caddo County have the nation's highest death rates caused by drugs.

Why? Kunstler puts his finger on it: "These are the people who have suffered their economic and social roles in life to be stolen from them. They do not work at things that matter.They have no prospect for a better life . . . ."

Now here is the point I wish to make. These Americans, who now live in despair, once hoped for a better life. There was a spark of buoyancy and optimism in these people when they were young. They believed then--and were incessantly encouraged to believe--that education would improve their economic situation. If they just obtained a degree from an overpriced, dodgy for-profit college or a technical certificate from a mediocre trade school, or maybe a bachelor's degree from the obscure liberal arts college down the road--they would spring into the middle class.

Postsecondary education, these pathetic fools believed, would deliver them into ranch-style homes, perhaps with a swimming pool in the backyard; into better automobiles, into intact and healthy families that would put their children into good schools.

And so these suckers took out student loans to pay for bogus educational experiences, often not knowing the interest rate on the money they borrowed or the payment terms. Without realizing it, they signed covenants not to sue--covenants written in type so small and expressed in language so obscure they did not realize they were signing away their right to sue for fraud even as they were being defrauded.

And a great many people who embarked on these quixotic educational adventures did not finish the educational programs they started, or they finished them and found the degrees or certificates they acquired did not lead to good jobs. So they stopped paying on their loans and were put into default.

And then the loan collectors arrived--reptilian agencies like Educational Credit Management Corporation or Navient Solutions.  The debt collectors add interest and penalties to the amount the poor saps borrowed, and all of a sudden, they owe twice what they borrowed, or maybe three times what they borrowed. Or maybe even four times what they borrowed.

Does this scenario--repeated millions of time across America over the last 25 years--drive people to despair? Does it drive them to drug addiction, to alcoholism, to suicide?

Of course not.

And even if it does, who the hell cares?


Drug Deaths in 2014


References


James Howard Kunstler. The National Blues. Clusterfuck Nation, April 28, 2017.

Sarah Kaplan.'It has brought us to our knees': Small Okla. town reeling from suicide epidemicWashington Post, January 25, 2016.

Natalie Kitroeff. Loan Monitor is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt. New York Times, January 1, 2014

Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen. Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in Mortality Rates of Young Whites. New York Times, January 16, 2016.

Robert Shireman and Tariq Habash. Have Student Loan Guaranty Agencies Lost Their Way? The Century Foundation, September 29, 2016. 

Haeyoun Park and Matthew Bloch. How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across AmericaNew York Times, January 19, 2017.






Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Student Loan Debt Collector accused of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; Brandon v. Eaton Group Attorneys

Unscrupulous debt collection practices: Economic exploitation of struggling student-loan debtors

Susan Browmmiller, in her classic book on rape, observed that rape victims are often assaulted twice. First, they are physically raped by their attacker; and then they are psychologically raped by the justice system when they testify against the rapist in a brutal and humiliating criminal trial.

Something similar can be said about student-loan debtors. Millions of unsophisticated young people have been enticed to take out student loans to enroll in academic programs that don't lead to good jobs. That's rape number 1.

Then when these duped individuals are unable to pay back their student loans, they fall into the hands of the unscrupulous debt collectors. That's rape number 2.

Brandon v. Eaton Group Attorneys: Law firm accused of violating Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Last January, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled in a case brought by Cassandra Brandon against Eaton Group Attorneys (Eaton), a law firm representing National Collegiate Student Loan Trust (NCSLT), a student-loan debt collector. Eaton had sued Brandon on NCSLT's behalf, alleging that Brandon had defaulted on her student loans and owed NCSLT about $46,000.

After the lawsuit was filed, an agent for Eaton sent Brandon a letter, which was described as a "REQUEST FOR PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS." And this is what the letter said:
Dear CASSANDRA PLUMMER [Plummer is Brandon's maiden name]: 
If you would like to explore a voluntary repayment plan, then please provide the requested information. The debt will need to be acknowledged through the attached consent judgment. Please return these forms as soon as possible. This is a communication from a debt collector. This is an attempt to collect a debt. Any information will be used for that purpose.
Accompanying the letter was a partially completed consent judgment, which stated:
IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that judgment be rendered in favor of Plaintiff, NATIONAL COLLEGIATE LOAN TRUST 2007-1, and against the defendant, CASSANDRA PLUMMER . . ., in the full sum of $41,115.13, together with accrued interest of $4,998.37, and additional interest of 4% from date of judgment, and for all costs of these proceedings, subject to a credit of $0.00.
Brandon then sued Eaton Group Attorneys in federal court, charging the law firm with violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  Basically, Brandon accused the law firm of sending her a deceptive debt-collection letter in violation of the FDCPA.

Eaton moved for summary judgment on Brandon's claim, arguing that its letter was "non-deceitful as a matter of law." But Judge Sarah Vance denied the law firm's motion and allowed Brandon to proceed with her suit.

Judge Vance began her analysis by summarizing the purpose of the FDCPA, which is to eliminate "abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices . . ." The law prohibits debt collectors from using any "false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt," and it bars debt collectors from using "unfair or unconscionable means" to collect on a debt.

In the court's view;
[The] letter [Brandon] received was misleading because an unsuspecting debtor, seeking only to 'explore a voluntary repayment plan,' could be fooled into executing the consent judgment without knowledge of the consequences. Specifically, an unsophisticated debtor may not know that the consent judgment will serve to waive potentially valid defenses and may facilitate a wage garnishment order" [Emphasis supplied]
By telling Brandon she must formally acknowledge her debt before she could even "explore" voluntary repayment plan, the Eaton Group Attorneys was basically inviting her to "inadvertently dig herself into a deeper hole." (Internal citation omitted).

Congress needs to clean up the student-loan debt collection industry

Laws are already on the books that ban unfair debt collection activities. Brandon sued Eaton Group Attorneys under the FDCPA; and Navient Solutions and Student Assistance Corporation had a judgment assessed against them last spring for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.


But more needs to be done.

Specifically, Congress needs to hold hearings on the activities of the student loan guaranty agencies--and Educational Credit Management Corporation in particular. A Texas bankruptcy judge slapped ECMC with punitive damages last year for repeatedly violating the automatic stay provision of the Bankruptcy Code, but the penalty was entirely too light for such a wealthy corporation.

And Congress needs to eliminate the excessive penalties--25 percent or more--that debt collectors assess on student-loan debtors in default.  After all, it is the penalties and accrued interest that are driving millions of struggling student-loan debtors into 20- and 25-year income driven repayment plans.

Republicans and Democrats could bring relief to millions of overwhelmed student-loan debtors if they just joined together to pass meaningful reform legislation.  If our nation's politicians can't cooperate in a bipartisan effort to clean up the student loan program, then shame on all of them.

References

Brandon v. Eaton Group Attorneys, CA No. 16-13747 (E.D. La. Jan. 24, 2017).

Bruner-Halteman v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, Case No. 12-324-HDH-13, ADV. No. 14-03041 (Bankr. N.D. Tex. 2016).

McCaskill v. Navient Solutions, Inc., No. 8:15-cv-1559-T-33TBM (M.D. Fla. April 6, 2016).

Robert Shireman and Tariq Habash. Have Student Loan Guaranty Agencies Lost Their Way? The Century Foundation, September 29, 2016. Accessible at https://tcf.org/content/report/student-loan-guaranty-agencies-lost-way/

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Navient Solutions and Student Assistance Corporation stung for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act: 727 automated phone calls to student debtor's mother!

Navient Solutions, Inc. and Student Assistance Corporation (SAC) got stung last month by a federal district court for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Navient made 249 automated collection calls to Willie McCaskill, a student debtor's mother.  Co-Defendant Student Assistance Corporation made another 478 automated calls to McCaskill's phone number.

As explained by the court, McCaskill is entitled to $500 for each violation, which adds up to $363,500.  In addition, the court will hold a trial to determine whether the defendants violations were wilful, which would entitle to McCaskill to treble damages. Let's hope she wins.

Navient and SAC asserted a goofy defense, which the court rejected. They argued that McCaskill "gave express consent" to being called about her daughter's debt. The court pointed out that Navient presented no evidence showing that McCaskill knowingly released her phone number to the debt collectors or that she had had any contact with them before they started calling. As if any mom would agree to getting bombarded with hundreds of phone calls from her daughter's creditors.

SAC and Navient also argued that McCaskill and her daughter were in an agency relationship, and that the daughter had legal authority to consent to the phone calls on her mother's behalf. But this is what the daughter testified:
You don't give out my mom's number, which is her business. I handle my own business, she handles her own business .. . .She stay over there, and I stay over here.
The court ruled that the defendants identified no evidence that questioned the daughter's testimony. Accordingly, the court granted McCaskill summary judgment on her TCPA claims.

Who is Navient Solutions anyway? Here's how it introduces itself on the web:
Although our name is new, our business is not. For more than 40 years we learned, evolved, and led in loan management, servicing and asset recovery as Sallie Mae®. And now, we continue to lead as Navient, a company dedicated to helping our clients and the people we serve along the path to financial success.
Navient also says "it is committed to fulfilling our role as an active corporate citizen with integrity and transparency." And oh yes. Navient is big into philanthropy, boasting that "[w]e recognize the importance of corporate philanthropy by giving back to our own communities and encouraging employees to volunteer."

Navient sounds like a model corporate citizen.  But if all Navient says about itself is true, why did it make 249 harassing telephone calls to a student debtor's mother?

References

McCaskill v. Navient Solutions, Inc., No. 8:15-cv-1559-T-33TBM (M.D. Fla. April 6, 2016).

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Arbitration clauses in student-loan documents:the sad case of Sierra Roach v. Navient Solutions, Inc.

In 2015, Sierra Roach sued Navient Solutions, Inc. for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Navient had been pursuing Roach to collect on five student loans totaling almost $69,000--money that had been disbursed to Bowie State University, not Roach.

Roach disputed the debt and claimed she was being repeatedly called by debt collectors. She also claimed that credit reporting bureaus were  issuing inaccurate credit reports about her.

Navient filed a motion asking a federal court to stay Roach's suit and compel her to arbitrate pursuant to an arbitration clause that was buried in the promissory notes she allegedly signed. (Roach claimed not to remember signing the notes.)

Roach's defense to Navient's arbitration demand was that she had signed the promissory note with another entity, not Navient.  But Navient presented evidence showing it had power to collect the debt, and a federal court granted Navient's arbitration demand in an order issued last December.

Roach had some other claims against Navient, but she apparently submitted them late and inartfully. After all, she had sued Navient without an attorney and was unfamiliar with the niceties of practicing law.

Some judges deal leniently with people who go to court without lawyers, but not Roach's judge. She had filed a "surreply memorandum," which the judge refused to consider, saying "sureplies are highly disfavored."

Although it is not entirely clear, she also apparently argued that the arbitration clause buried in the promissory notes had not come to her attention and that she did not realize that she had waived her right to sue when she signed the promissory notes.

The judge did not like this argument at all. In a footnote, he cited language from another decision that said: "[T]he fact that [plaintiff] may have chosen not not to access or read the  language of the Arbitration Agreement does not render it invalid or non-binding."

In short, the judge forced Roach to arbitrate her claims against  Navient.

Scholars and commentators largely agree that arbitration generally favors corporate parties. That's why banks, financial institutions, and student-loan lenders force people to sign arbitration clauses in routine documents. Like Ms. Roach, most people do not understand that they are signing away their right to sue for wrongdoing when they agree to arbitrate.

Two comments on the Roach case:

1) Many student-loan debtors are losing in the courts because they are not represented by competent lawyers. Roach's best argument for invalidating the arbitration clause was that it is an "adhesion contract" that she was forced to sign as a condition for getting federal loan money. Courts have ruled for fifty years or more that agreements waiving the right to sue can be nullified if the party signing the waiver is the weaker party with no opportunity to negotiate and no choice but to sign in order to receive a service. But Ms.Roach probably knew nothing about adhesion contracts.

Distressed student-loan debtors ought to have access to pro bono (free) legal services. There are literally hundreds of thousands of unemployed lawyers right now--and most of them have massive student-loan debt themselves. Their talents should be harnessed to help people like Ms. Roach.

2) The fact that student-loan lenders and for-profit colleges are allowed to put arbitration clauses in student-loan documents and college-enrollment forms is a scandal. Secretary of Education John B. King announced recently that he opposes this practice and will draft regulations that will put some limits on it.

But the regulation revision will go through a negotiations process, and any regulations DOE adopts are likely to be watered down. After all, the finance industry and the for-profit colleges have powerful lobbyists and sharp lawyers, and they make campaign contributions to powerful politicians.

For now at least, millions of people are jeopardizing their financial futures when they borrow money to attend college. Even if they are defrauded or get substandard educational experiences, they are barred from filing suit. And if they file for bankruptcy to get a fresh start, the creditors' attorneys are waiting for them to make sure these distressed debtors get booted out of bankruptcy court.

References

Roach v. Navient Solutions, Inc., 2015 WL 8479195 (D. Maryland, Dec. 10, 2015).

U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Department of Education Takes Further Steps to Protect Students from Predatory Higher Education Institutions. March 11, 2016. Accessible at http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-takes-further-steps-protect-students-predatory-higher-education-institutions?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=