Somewhere along the way, Senator Warren represented that she had Cherokee blood, although she never provided a shred of evidence to support that assertion. Her claim may have been a factor in getting that cushy Harvard Law School job. But Harvard says no, and Harvard always tells the truth.
Nevertheless, Harvard Law School claimed it had a Native American professor while Warren was on the faculty, without identifying who it was. (To be fair, it may have been Alan Dershowitz).
If Warren misrepresented her heritage to advance her career, we can't be too hard on her. Higher education is a rough business, and Warren certainly played the game better than I did. And, as the song goes that Willie Nelson made famous, Liz only did what she had to do.
But Warren is a senator now, and she has an obligation to do some good for the American people. She claims to be an advocate for distressed student-loan debtors, but what has she done for them?
She's written letters to the Department of Education and spouted a lot of nonsense about the "obscene" profits the government makes off the student-loan program. More substantively, she co-sponsored a bill in 2015 to protect seniors from having their Social Security checks garnished, but the bill never became law.
In my view, Senator Warren could do more to address the student loan crisis than file bills and write letters. Specifically, she should join with other progressives in the Senate and press for Senate hearings on the student loan guaranty agencies and Educational Credit Management Corporation in particular. ECMC is perhaps the federal government's most ruthless debt collector and has amassed a billion dollars in unrestricted assets, at least partly from hounding destitute student debtors.
In the Bruner-Halteman case, for example, ECMC garnished the wages of a bankrupt Starbucks employee 37 times in violation of the Bankruptcy Code's automatic stay provision. A Texas bankruptcy slapped ECMC with $74,000 in punitive damages.
And in the Hann case, ECMC continued trying to collect on a woman's student loans even though a bankruptcy court had discharged those loans on the grounds that she had paid them off. ECMC only got stung with a small penalty for that misbehavior.
Rafael Pardo and the Century Foundation both established that the federal government is paying ECMC's attorney fees, and ECMC is using its attorneys to ground down overburdened student borrowers in the bankruptcy courts. Many of these destitute people don't have the money to hire a lawyer, but ECMC is paying its lawyers as much as $300 an hour.
The public has no idea what ECMC has been up to, and Senate hearings could shine some light on this sleazy organization. How much is ECMC paying its CEO, Jan Hines, and its other senior executives? What is ECMC doing with its wealth? Why does the Department of Education pay ECMC's attorney fees to engage in what Rafael Pardo described as "pollutive litigation"?
Senator Warren could do a great deal of good if she would use her powers of persuasion to get the Senate Banking Committee to hold hearings on ECMC's shady activities. In fact, if Senator Warren got the opportunity to ask ECMC executives some tough questions, I'll bet she could bring this rotten outfit down.
Senator Warren needs to accomplish something tangible to address the student loan crisis if she wants people to regard her as a consumers' advocate. If she doesn't accomplish something soon, Americans will be forced to conclude she is not really a progressive, just as we know she's not really a Cherokee.
|How much does ECMC pay its CEO, Jan Hines?|
Bruner-Halteman v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, Case No. 12-324-HDH-13, ADV. No. 14-03041 (Bankr. N.D. Tex. 2016).
Hann v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, 711 F.3d 235 (1st Cir. 2013).
John Hechinger. Taxpayers Fund $454,000 Pay for Collector Chasing Student Loans. Bloomberg.com, May 15, 2013.
Joshua Hicks. Did Elizabeth Warren check the Native American box when she "applied" to Harvard and Penn? Washington Post, September 28, 2012.
Natalie Kitroeff. Loan Monitor is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt. New York Times, January 1, 2014.
Rafael Pardo. The Undue Hardship Thicket: On Access to Justice, Procedural Noncompliance, and Pollutive Litigation in Bankruptcy. 66 Florida Law Review 2101 (2014).
Robert Shireman and Tariq Habash. Have Student Loan Guaranty Agencies Lost Their Way? The Century Foundation, September 29, 2016.
Brian Walsh. Elizabeth Warren is Rewriting American History. U.S. News & World Report, April 22, 2014.