Sunday, December 30, 2018

Lord Abbett Affiliated v. Navient Corporation: "We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you!"

More than a year ago, Lord Abbett Affiliated Funds sued Navient Corporation for fraud and securities violations, claiming it was deceived by Navient's representations about its student loan portfolio. Navient is a student-loan servicing company that manages about $300 billion in student-loan debt owed by 12 million borrowers.

According to Lord Abbett's second amended complaint (80 pages long), Navient "regularly and indiscriminately" granted forbearances to struggling student-loan borrowers, allowing those borrowers to temporarily stop making monthly loan payments Lord Abbett alleged that Navient did this in order to artificially report high income and to hide the fact that Navient was a riskier investment than it was portraying itself (para. 5).

"By overusing forbearances," Lord Abbett represented, "Navient artificially kept delinquencies, defaults, and charge-offs lower than they should have been, which in turned allowed [Navient] to report artificially low loan loss provisions as well as correspondingly high net incomes and EPS [earnings per share]" (para. 7).

Navient's practice of misusing forbearances, Lord Abbett argued, enabled Navient to list thousands of loans as current (para. 38), even though those loans weren't performing.  Lord Abbett maintains that Navient's fraudulent practices, once disclosed, caused its stock price to fall. Undoubtedly, Lord Abbett and other investors lost a ton of money when Navient stock nosedived.

As I said, Lord Abbett's amended complaint was filed more than a year ago and its lawsuit may no longer be active.  Navient's stock has declined in value from its high and is now worth less than $9 per share. In fact, one investment analyst recently recommended loading up on Navient's stock, which pays a nice dividend.

Personally, I don't give a fig whether Lord Abbett and its investors lost money in Navient stock. After all, Lord Abbett apparently didn't care about Navient's nefarious practices so long as it was making money. It's as if Navient was making that old used-car dealer pitch: "We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you!"

Lord Abbott's complaint, however, is strong evidence that Navient's reckless practice of granting forbearances to distressed student borrowers obscures the number of people who are not paying back their student loans.  According to Lord Abbett (para 47), Navient granted four consecutive forbearances to more than half a million student-loan borrowers over a five-year period, allowing borrowers to skip their monthly loan payments while interest accrued and capitalized on their loans.

How many of these half million borrowers will ever pay off their individual student loans? I venture to say none of them will.


References

Lord Abbett Affiliated Fund v. Navient Corporation, Case No. 1-16-cv-112-GMS, Second Amended Complaint filed November 17, 2017 (D. Del.).







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