Showing posts with label Lynn Mahaffie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lynn Mahaffie. Show all posts

Monday, June 25, 2018

Should courts look for bad faith when distressed student-loan debtors ask for bankruptcy relief? Further reflections on Smith v. Department of Education

Distressed debtors cannot discharge student loans unless they can show their loans constitute an "undue hardship" to themselves and their dependents. Congress did not define undue hardship in the Bankruptcy Code, so it was left to the courts to define the term.

Most courts have adopted the Brunner test for determining when a student loan is an undue hardship that can be discharged in bankruptcy. That test has three parts:

1) Can the debtor pay back the loan while maintaining a minimal standard of living?
2) Will the debtor's financial circumstances change during the lifetime of the loan?
3) Did the debtor handle his or her loans in good faith?

In Smith v. Department of Education, decided a few months ago, Judge Frank Bailey, a Massachusetts bankruptcy judge, explicitly criticized the Brunner test's  "good faith" component:
[A]ny test that allows for the court to determine a student debtor's good or bad faith while living at a subsistence level, virtually strait-jacketed by circumstances, displaces the focus from where the statute would have it: the hardship. It also imposes on courts the virtually impossible task of evaluating good or bath faith in debtors whose range of options is exceedingly limited and includes no realistic hope of repaying their loans to any appreciable extent. . .(p. 566)
 Judge Bailey argued for a simpler and fairer standard for determining when a student loan can be discharged in bankruptcy: "If a debtor has suffered a personal, medical, or financial loss and cannot hope to pay now or in the reasonably reliable future," the judge reasoned, "that should be enough" (p. 565) (italics supplied).

Eliminating the good faith component of the Brunner test would have a huge impact on student-loan bankruptcy jurisprudence because the Department of Education and its thug debt collectors almost always argue that a debtor filed for bankruptcy in bad faith. And this is ironic because it is the Department of Education, not student-loan debtors, that repeatedly demonstrates bad faith in the bankruptcy courts.

Let's take the Smith case as an example:

1) First of all, the U.S. Department of Education has publicly proclaimed it will not oppose bankruptcy relief for student debtors who are disabled. Mr. Smith is disabled; and Smith and his mother subsist entirely on Smith's monthly disability check, food stamps, and his mother's tiny Social Security income. Thus, DOE was opposing Mr. Smith's plea for bankruptcy relief in direct contradiction to DOE's own policy. In my opinion, that shows DOE's bad faith.

2) In a 2015 letter, a Department of Education official said DOE would not oppose bankruptcy relief when it made no economic sense to do so. Smith's adversary proceeding stretched out over five days, taking up Judge Bailey's time; and both Smith and DOE had lawyers. (In fact, DOE had two lawyers.) Smith only borrowed $29,000; and the litigation expenses almost certainly exceeded that amount. In my view, DOE's decision to chase Smith into bankruptcy court is additional evidence of bad faith.

3) Finally, DOE insisted Smith should be put in a long-term income-based repayment plan, even though it admitted Smith's income was so low that his monthly loan payments would be zero. So what was the point of fighting Smith in bankruptcy court? Again, this is more evidence of DOE's bad faith.

In fact, the Department of Education and the student loan guaranty agencies (ECMC in particular) almost always argue that a distressed student-loan debtor filed for bankruptcy in bad faith. And this is true even when the debtor is hovering on the brink of homelessness.

After all, in the Myhre case, DOE opposed student-loan debt relief for a quadriplegic whose expenses exceeded his income.  In the Abney case, DOE fought Kevin Abney, who was so poor he did not own a car and traveled to work on a bicycle. And in the Stevenson case, ECMC objected when Janice Stevenson, a woman with a record of homelessness and who lived in subsidized housing, tried to discharge almost $100,00 in student loans.

So Judge Bailey is right. The federal courts should stop asking whether down-and-out student-loan debtors handled their student loans in good faith. The only important questions are these: Can the debtor pay back his or her student loans? Will the debtor ever be able to pay back those loans?

And if the courts continue to insist on looking for bad faith, they should look for it by the Department of Education, ECMC, and the entire gang of government-subsidized debt collectors.



References

Jillian Berman. Why Obama is forgiving the student loans of almost 400,000 peopleMarketwatch.com, April 13, 2016.


Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education, 503 B.R. 698 (Bakr. W.D. Wis. 2013).

Michael Stratford. Feds May Forgive Loans of Up to 387,000 BorrowersInside Higher Ed, April 13, 2016. 

Smith v. U.S. Department of Education (In Re Smith), 582 B.R. 556 (Bankr. D. Mass 2018).

Stevenson v. ECMC, Case No. 08-14084-JNF, Adv. P. No. 08-1245 (Bankr. D. Mass. August 2, 2011).

Some physical or mental impairments can qualify you for a total r permanent disability discharge on your federal student loans and/or TEACH grant service obligation. U.S. Department of Education web site (undated).

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Dear Secretary Betsy DeVos: Please do the right thing and allow distressed debtors to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy

Dear Secretary DeVos:

You have been Secretary of Education for about  a month, so you know the federal student loan program is in shambles.

Eight million borrowers are in default, millions more aren't making payments while interest accrues on their debt, 5.6 million people have signed up for income-driven repayment plans and are making payments so small that their debt is negatively amortizing even though they are faithfully making regular payments.

Obviously, there are dozens of things the Department of Education can do to address this crisis, but you can easily do one thing to help alleviate mass suffering and it is this: Please direct DOE and all its student-loan debt collectors to stop opposing bankruptcy relief for distressed student-loan borrowers.

In 2015, Deputy Secretary Lynn Mahaffie issued a letter stating DOE and its debt collectors would not oppose bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors if it made no economic sense to do so. But in fact, both the Department and its agents oppose bankruptcy relief in almost every case.

And here are just a few examples:
  • In Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education, the Department opposed bankruptcy relief for a quadriplegic who worked full time but could not make student-loan payments and still pay the full-time caregiver he needed to dress him, feed him, and drive him to work.
  • In Abney v. U.S. Department of Education,  DOE urged a bankruptcy court to put a destitute student borrower into a long term payment plan even though the debtor was living on $1200 a month and was so poor he could not afford to drive a car and was riding a bicycle to work.
  • In Roth v. Educational Credit Management, ECMC fought an elderly woman's efforts to shed her student loans even though the woman had a monthly income of less than $800 a month and suffered from several chronic health problems.
  • In Edwards v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, ECMC argued to an Arizona bankruptcy judge that a 56-year-old counselor who owed $245,000 in student loans should be put in a 25-year repayment plan whereby she would make token payments until she was 81 years old!
Some of these cases were decided before Mahaffie's 2015 letter and some were decided after, but the dates are immaterial. DOE and its agents almost always oppose bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors, no matter how desperate their circumstances.

In fact, DOE's position is essentially this: NO STUDENT DEBTOR IS ENTITLED TO BANKRUPTCY RELIEF. Instead, everyone should be placed in income-driven repayment plan  (IDR) that can last for 20 or even 25 years.

But you could change DOE's position simply by signing your name to a single letter. That letter should say that DOE and its debt collectors will no longer oppose bankruptcy relief for student debtors who cannot pay back their college loans and still maintain a minimal standard of living. And DOE will no longer argue that IDRs are a reasonable alternative to bankruptcy relief.

If you did that, hundreds of thousands of insolvent college-loan borrowers could discharge their student debt in bankruptcy and get a fresh start--a fresh start the bankruptcy courts were established to provide.

Your advisers may argue that the IDR program offers college borrowers a reasonable way to ultimately pay off their student loans, but that's not true. Do you think Rita Edwards would have ever paid back the $245,000 she owed the government by making payments of $81 a month in an IDR as ECMC proposed in her bankruptcy case? Of course not.

Do you think Janet Roth would have ever paid back her student-loan debt of $90,000 if she had been put in an IDR that would have set her monthly payments at zero due to her low income? No, and it was absurd for ECMC to have made that argument in Roth's bankruptcy case.

The stark reality is this. Millions of student borrowers have seen their loan balances double, triple and even quadruple due default fees and accruing interest. Putting these people into 20 and 25-year repayment plans that only require them to make token payments is insane.

Secretary DeVos, you could eliminate so much suffering if you would simply write a letter stating that DOE will no longer oppose bankruptcy relief for people like Myhre, Edwards, Roth, Abney and millions of other people in similar circumstances who will never pay back their student loans.

Please do the right thing.

References

Abney v. U.S. Department of Education, 540 B.R. 681 (Bankr. W.D. Mo. 2015).

Annual Report of the CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, September 2016.

Ann Carrns. How to Dig Out of Student Loan Default. New York Times, October 21, 2016.

Rohit Chopra. A closer look at the trillion. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, August 5, 2013.

Edwards v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, Adversary No.. 3:15-ap-26-PS, 2016 WL 1317421 (Bankr. D. Ariz. March 31, 2016).

Lynn Mahaffie, Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings. CL ID: GEN 15-13, July 7, 2015.

Myhe v. U.S. Department of Education, 503 B.R. 698 (Bankr. W.D. Wis. 2013).

Roth v. Educational Credit Management Corporation490 B.R. 908 (9th Cir. BAP 2013). Available at http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/bap/2013/04/16/RothV%20ECMC%20opinion-FINAL%20AZ-11-1233.pdf

Matt Sessa. Federal Student Aid Posts Updated Reports to FSA Data Center. U.S. Department of Education Office of Student Aid, December 20, 2016.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Free bankruptcy attorneys for destitute student-loan debtors: Why the heck not?

The New York Times editorialized yesterday that tenants should have access to free attorneys when their landlords start eviction proceedings against them. As the Times put it, "There are few legal fights more lopsided than landlords suing to evict their lower-income tenants." The Times commended New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for his plan to provide municipal funding to hire legal help for the city's low-income tenants.

I agree with the Times; providing tenants with legal assistance when they face eviction would be a good thing. But let's expand that idea a bit. Why not provide free bankruptcy attorneys for destitute student-loan debtors?

After all, almost all college-loan borrowers who try to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy are too poor to hire lawyers to steer them through the bankruptcy process. And when they go to bankruptcy court, they almost always face a platoon of lawyers who argue that their student loans should not be discharged.

The debtor either faces government lawyers dispatched by the U.S. Department of Education or private attorneys hired by Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) or  another federally authorized debt collector. For example, in the Acosta-Conniff bankruptcy case, now on appeal to the Eleventh Circuit, ECMC has six attorney to defend its interests. Six!

Currently, this country has thousands of unemployed lawyers.  As Joshua Wright reported recently, American law schools are turning out two attorneys for every available job. Why not put some of these unemployed law graduates to work defending student-loan debtors in the bankruptcy courts?

I will tell you why not. The Department of Education does not want anyone to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy. And when I say anyone, I mean anyone. In a 2013 case, DOE fought bankruptcy discharge for a quadriplegic who was working full time but who did not make enough money to pay his live-in caregiver and still pay off his student loans.

Lynne Mahaffie, a DOE Under Secretary, issued a letter in July 2015 outlining when DOE would not oppose bankruptcy discharge for distressed student-loan debtors; but that letter was misleading. In fact, DOE and its debt collectors fight almost every debtor who seeks to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. If DOE is going to oppose bankruptcy relief for a quadriplegic, then you know it is going to oppose relief for almost everyone.

DOE, Congress, and the higher education industry know that the whole corrupt, mismanaged, and wildly overpriced system of higher education in the United States would collapse without the student loan program; and the student loan program's continued existence depends on the fiction that students are paying back their loans.

In fact, they are not paying back their loans; but the government has largely managed to hide that fact from the public. If insolvent student-loan debtors were able to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy, millions of people would be entitled to relief. And if that were to occur, then it would be apparent to everyone that the federal student-loan program is itself bankrupt; and the program would collapse.

And Congress, DOE, and the higher education industry want to postpone the day of reckoning for as long as possible.

References

Editorial. A Right to a Lawyer to Save Your Home. New York Times, September 23, 2016, p. A26. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/opinion/a-right-to-a-lawyer-to-save-your-home.html?_r=0

Lynn Mahaffie, Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings. CL ID: GEN 15-13, July 7, 2015. Accessible at https://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1513.pdf

Myhre v U.S. Department of Education, 503 B.R. 698 (Bakr. W.D. Wis. 2013). Accessible at http://www.wiwd.uscourts.gov/wiwb/Decisions/Decisions_rdm/2013/Myhre.pdf

Joshua Wright. The Oversaturated Job Market for Lawyers Continues, and On-The-Side Legal Work Grows. Economicmodeling.com, January 10, 2014. http://www.economicmodeling.com/2014/01/10/the-oversatured-job-market-for-lawyers-continues/

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Student Loans, Bankruptcy, and Creditors' Lawyers: If Auschwitz Comes to the United States, Will Attorneys Handle the Paperwork?

I was a child when I learned about the Nazi concentration camps. I was a voracious reader when I was young, and I often wandered around our town library, browsing through the books. One day, I pulled a book off a shelf because I was intrigued by the title, and the pages fell open to a photo of one of the German concentration camps. It might have been Auschwitz, but I don't remember.

The photo showed dozens of naked and emaciated corpses piled in a heap, and that was all. I remember being viscerally shocked and frightened by what I saw, and I immediately realized that the dead people who appeared in the photo were the victims of human monsters.

I thought about that photo for weeks, and I finally comforted myself with the childish conviction that the death camps would never come to America--that Americans could never commit such savage acts.

Image result for auschwitz death camp
I hope I get off work in time to see my kid's soccer game

I was naive of course.  As I grew older, I realized there are plenty of Americans who will do anything they are directed to do--no matter how much pain they inflict on other human beings.

The people who operated the Nazi death camps were, after all, ordinary people.  They probably read their morning newspapers over breakfast and played with their children after work in the evenings. They labored for the Nazi death machine for a variety of mundane reasons--maybe they just needed a paycheck.

And this brings me to the lawyers who work for Educational Credit Management Corporation, perhaps the federal government's most aggressive debt collector against student-loan borrowers. ECMC's attorneys have gone into bankruptcy court time after time to oppose debt relief for distressed student-loan debtors.  In the Roth case, for example, ECMC's legal counsel opposed bankruptcy relief for Janet Roth, an elderly debtor with chronic health problems who was living on less than $800 a month. ECMC harried Ms. Roth all the way to the Ninth Circuit's Bankruptcy Appellate Panel.

In a letter dated July 7, 2015, Lynn Mahaffie, a Department of Education bureaucrat, issued a letter advising creditors like ECMC not to oppose bankruptcy relief for student debtors if the cost of fighting a bankruptcy discharge did not make the effort worthwhile.

But that letter was just bullshit. The Department of Education and its loan collectors almost always oppose bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors--whether or not it is cost effective to do so.  For example, in Acosta-Conniff v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, an Alabama bankruptcy judge discharged Alexandra Acosta-Conniff's student loan debt. Conniff was a single mother of two children working as a school teacher, and the court reasoned quite sensibly that Conniff would not be able to pay off her student loans.

ECMC dispatched six attorneys to appeal the bankruptcy court's decision: David Edwin Rains, Kristofer David Sodergren, Rachel Lavender Webber, Robert Allen Morgan, Margaret Hammond Manuel, and David Chip Schwartz. Six attorneys--and Conniff didn't even have a lawyer!

Not surprisingly, ECMC won its appeal.  Six lawyers against a single mother of two who can't afford an attorney--it was hardly a fair fight.

Conniff has a lawyer now, and she is appealing the district court's unfavorable decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. ECMC has a platoon of lawyers to represent it before the Eleventh Circuit, and who knows how much that costs?

But ECMC apparently doesn't care how much the appeal will cost, and the Department of Education obviously doesn't care either. Otherwise it would direct its loan collectors not to harass insolvent student-loan debtors in the bankruptcy courts.

Now I am not comparing ECMC's lawyers to Nazi death-camp workers. Being a debt collector's attorney is not intrinsically evil; and any misery inflicted on a student-loan debtor in a bankruptcy court is trivial compared to the horrors of Auschwitz. I feel sure ECMC's lawyers are all decent people.

Nevertheless, I personally could not sleep at night if I were representing ECMC in the bankruptcy courts against people like Janet Roth or Alexandra Acosta-Conniff.  I would ask myself whether I am serving the interests of justice by helping ECMC deprive honest but unfortunate college-loan borrowers a fresh start in life.

But I don't imagine ECMC's attorneys ask themselves that question. And I doubt whether they have trouble sleeping at night. After all, the lawyers have their own student loans to pay off; and everyone has to make a living.


Note: A quick search in the Westlaw data base turned up 557 cases in which Educational Credit Management Corporation appeared as a named party.


References

Fossey, R. & Cloud, R. C. (2015). Tidings of comfort and joy: In an astonishingly compassionate decision, a bankruptcy judge discharged the student loans of an Alabama school teacher who acted as her own attorney. Teachers College Record Online, tcrecord.org. ID Number 18040. 

ECMC v. Acosta-Conniff, 550 BR 557 (M.D. Ala. 2016).

In re Roth, 490 B.R. 908 (9th Cir. BAP 2013).

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





Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Department of Education almost always fights bankruptcy relief for distressed college-loan borrowers--even when it pointless to do so: You'll never get out of this world alive.

I'll never get out of this world alive.
Hank Williams

Last July, Lynn Mahaffie, Deputy Secretary of Education, issued an insincere letter regarding the Department of Education's position concerning bankruptcy relief for college-loan debtors.

In that letter, Mahaffie outlined when DOE would not oppose bankruptcy relief for student-loan borrowers. She listed eleven factors to consider when determining when DOE would agree to permit a bankrupt debtor to discharge student loans in a bankruptcy court. In addition, Mahadffie said the Department would not oppose a bankruptcy discharge if it would not make economic sense to fight a student-loan borrower's petition for relief.

But in fact, Mahaffie wasn't telling the truth. Bankruptcy court opinions decided after Mahaffie wrote her letter show that DOE opposes bankruptcy relief for almost everyone--even when it is absolutely clear a debtor will never repay his or her college loans.

Let's review Kelly v. U.S. Department of Education, decided less than two months ago. Cynthia Kelly, a woman in her sixties, filed for bankruptcy in August 2014. At the time of her filing, Kelly had accumulated $160,000 in college-loan debt; and she had had no steady employment for almost 10 years. In fact, she was receiving nearly $200 a month from the local Department of Social Services in food assistance.

Prior to filing, Kelly was approved for an "Income-Contingent Repayment Plan" (ICRP) that reduced her monthly student-loan payment obligation to zero because her income was so low. Based on her employment history, it seems highly unlikely that Kelly will ever be required to pay a single penny on her student loans under her ICRP because she will probably be living at the poverty level for the rest of her life.

Nevertheless, the Department of Education opposed Kelly's bankruptcy application to discharge her student loans, and Judge David Warren, a North Carolina bankruptcy judge, refused, to release her from the debt. In the judge's view, Kelly failed the second prong of the Brunner "undue hardship" test because she could not show "additional circumstances" that precluded her from paying back her loans in the future.

Indeed, Judge Warren was totally unsympathetic to Ms. Kelly's situation.  The judge pointed out that Kelly had taken out student loans over a period of 40 years and had paid almost none of it back (less than $2,300).  Moreover, she had left a secure job with a pharmaceutical company in 2004 to do community service work and had never had steady employment since that time. Although Kelly argued that she had made diligent efforts to find remunerative work, Judge Warren ruled that there was no evidence that she had ever "pounded the payment" to find a job.

Judge Warren pointed out that Kelly appeared to be in good health and was well educated, having both a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, and a doctorate. He seemed offended by the fact that a highly educated person was getting food assistance.  Kelly's "lack of desire and motivation is an insult to those similarly situated," the judge observed, "especially to those lacking the gift of an education." In the judge's opinion, this insult was further compounded "by [Kelly's] complacent acceptance of welfare . . . "

I fully agree with Judge Warren that Kelly is not an attractive candidate for bankruptcy relief.  As the judge pointed out, Kelly took out  student loans for nearly 40 years to obtain a lot of postsecondary education, and yet she chose to live a "voluntary lifestyle" of community service rather than make reasonable efforts to maximize her income.

But let's face it. Ms. Kelly (or Dr. Kelly) will never pay off $160,000 in student loans. Her ICRP requires her to pay nothing due to her poverty-level income, and it is totally unrealistic to believe that a woman in her sixties who hasn't held a steady job in ten years is going to obtain a well-paying job in today's economy.

Moreover, the colleges and universities who took Ms. Kelly's tuition money over a forty-year period bear a good deal of the blame for the situation Kelly is in now. According to Judge Warren, Kelly enrolled at multiple institutions, including Stone School, University of New Haven, Southern New Hampshire University, Spelman College, Drew University, South New Hampshire University, University of Mount Olive, and Shaw University.

Perhaps Kelly is not deserving of  bankruptcy relief, but denying her that relief will not get the taxpayers' money back. The Department of Education would be more honest with taxpayers if it allowed people in Kelly's position to shed their debt in a bankruptcy court and then took steps to prevent colleges all over the United States from enrolling students in programs that will never pay off financially.

But that will never happen because the colleges can't survive without federal student-aid money, including money they get from admitting students to programs that have no economic benefit for the people who complete them.

References

Kelly v. U.S. Department of Education, 548 B.R. 99 (Bankr. E.D.N.C. 2016).

Lynn Mahaffie, Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings. CL ID: GEN 15-13, July 7, 2015.






Monday, March 21, 2016

Student Loan Bankruptcy and Educational Credit Management Corporation: Who pays the ECMC lawyers?


I know quite a bit about the student loan crisis. After studying both governmental and nongovernmental documents, I know the student-loan default rate is much higher than the government reports. According to the Department of Eduction, the three-year default rate is about 10 percent, but the people who stop paying on their loans is at least 30 percent.  And among people who attended for-profit colleges, the default rate is at least 50 percent.

I also know a lot about college borrowers who try to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy. Shedding student loans through bankruptcy is difficult, but over the past three years or so, a number of bankruptcy courts have ruled in favor of college-loan debtors, showing both compassion and common sense.

But I dont' know who pays the lawyers for the student-debt collection agencies that fight student debtors in the bankruptcy courts or how much those lawyers get paid. 

In particular, who paid the lawyers for Educational Credit Management Corporation, which opposed bankruptcy relief for Janet Roth, an elderly woman with chronic health problems who was living on  Social Security income of only  $774 a month?  And ECMC lawyers didn't just fight Ms. Roth in the bankruptcy court, it fought her all the way to the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And everybody knew that Jane Roth's income was so low that she would have paid nothing on her student loans even if she lost her case. 

Who paid the ECMC lawyers who appealed a bankruptcy decision in favor of George and Melanie Johnson, a couple with two school-age children who lost their home in a foreclosure proceeding?

And who ultimately paid the tab for ECMC to fight bankruptcy relief for Janice Stevenson, a woman in her 50s with a history of homelessness who was living on only at thousand dollars a month?

A New York Times article reported that ECMC has been accused of ruthless loan-collection tactics, and I would say ruthless is putting it mildly. And take my word for it, ECMC lawyers aren't working for free.

To paraphrase the great Lynyrd Skynyrd, I know a little about student loans and bankruptcy, and baby I can guess the rest. I think the taxpayers are paying  ECMC's lawyers--either directly or indirectly. 

In a letter issued last July, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education Lynne Mahaffie wrote that student-loan debt collectors should take cost into account when deciding when to oppose bankruptcy discharge for distressed college-loan borrowers. But if ECMC is absorbing the cost of attorney fees to fight Jane Roth, Janice Stevenson, and Mr. and Mrs.Johnson, why would the Department of Education care what ECMC is spending in its collection efforts? 

Certainly ECMC wasn't taking cost into account when it dragged Janet Roth through the federal courts for several years.  There could have been no monetary gain to the taxpayers in fighting bankruptcy relief for Ms. Roth.

In the months to come, we will see if DOE really meant it when it authorized Mahaffie to say that DOE and its student-loan debt collectors would not fight bankruptcy discharge of student loans when it is not cost effective to do so.

My guess is this. ECMC will continue harassing student-loan debtors in the bankruptcy courts as long as its lawyers get paid for doing so.  So if Lynn Mahaffie really meant what she said in that 2015 letter, DOE needs to change the system whereby ECMC lawyers get rich hounding people like Jane Roth, Janice Stevenson, and George and Melanie Johnson.

References

Natalie Kitroeff. Loan Monitor is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt. New York Times, January 1, 2014. Acccessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/us/loan-monitor-is-accused-of-ruthless-tactics-on-student-debt.html?_r=0

Lynn Mahaffie. Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings, July 7, 2015, GEN 15-13.  Accesible at https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1513.pdf

Roth v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, 490 B.R. 908 (9th Cir. BAP 2013). Accessible at http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/bap/2013/04/16/RothV%20ECMC%20opinion-FINAL%20AZ-11-1233.pdf




Student Loan Bankruptcy and Educational Credit Management Corporation: Who pays the ECMC lawyers?

    Say I know a little
    I know a little about it
    I know a little
    I know a little 'bout it
    I know a little 'bout love
    And baby I can guess the rest.

Lynyrd Skynyrd
I Know A Little

I know quite a bit about the student loan crisis. After studying both governmental and nongovernmental documents, I know the student-loan default rate is much higher than the government reports. According to the Department of Eduction, the three-year default rate is about 10 percent, but the people who stop paying on their loans is at least 30 percent.  And among people who attended for-profit colleges, the default rate is at least 50 percent.

I also know a lot about college borrowers who try to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy. Shedding student loans through bankruptcy is difficult, but over the past three years or so, a number of bankruptcy courts have ruled in favor of college-loan debtors, showing both compassion and common sense.

But I dont' know who pays the lawyers for the student-debt collection agencies that fight student debtors in the bankruptcy courts or how much those lawyers get paid. 

In particular, who paid the lawyers for Educational Credit Management Corporation, which opposed bankruptcy relief for Janet Roth, an elderly woman with chronic health problems who was living on  Social Security income of only  $774 a month?  And ECMC lawyers didn't just fight Ms. Roth in the bankruptcy court, it fought her all the way to the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. And everybody knew that Jane Roth's income was so low that she would have paid nothing on her student loans even if she lost her case. 

Who paid the ECMC lawyers who appealed a bankruptcy decision in favor of George and Melanie Johnson, a couple with two school-age children who lost their home in a foreclosure proceeding?

And who ultimately paid the tab for ECMC to fight bankruptcy relief for Janice Stevenson, a woman in her 50s with a history of homelessness who was living on only at thousand dollars a month?

A New York Times article reported that ECMC has been accused of ruthless loan-collection tactics, and I would say ruthless is putting it mildly. And take my word for it, ECMC lawyers aren't working for free.

To paraphrase the great Lynyrd Skynyrd, I know a little about student loans and bankruptcy, and baby I can guess the rest. I think the taxpayers are paying the fees of ECMC's lawyers--either directly or indirectly. 

In a letter issued last July, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education Lynne Mahaffie wrote that student-loan debt collectors should take cost into account when deciding when to oppose bankruptcy discharge for distressed college-loan borrowers. But if ECMC is absorbing the cost of attorney fees to fight Jane Roth, Janice Stevenson, and Mr. and Mrs.Johnson, why would the Department of Education care what ECMC is spending in its collection efforts? 

Certainly ECMC wasn't taking cost into account when it dragged Janet Roth through the federal courts for several years.  There could have been no monetary gain to the taxpayers in fighting bankruptcy relief for Ms. Roth.

In the months to come, we will see if DOE really meant it when it authorized Mahaffie to say that DOE and its student-loan debt collectors would not fight bankruptcy discharge of student loans when it is not cost effective to do so.

My guess is this. ECMC will continue harassing student-loan debtors in the bankruptcy courts as long as its lawyers get paid for doing so.  So if Lynn Mahaffie really meant what she said in that 2015 letter, DOE needs to change the system whereby ECMC lawyers get rich hounding people like Jane Roth, Janice Stevenson, and George and Melanie Johnson.

References

Natalie Kitroeff. Loan Monitor is Accused of Ruthless Tactics on Student Debt. New York Times, January 1, 2014. Acccessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/02/us/loan-monitor-is-accused-of-ruthless-tactics-on-student-debt.html?_r=0

Lynn Mahaffie. Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings, July 7, 2015, GEN 15-13.  Accesible at https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1513.pdf

Roth v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, 490 B.R. 908 (9th Cir. BAP 2013). Accessible at http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/bap/2013/04/16/RothV%20ECMC%20opinion-FINAL%20AZ-11-1233.pdf




Friday, February 19, 2016

Let Justice Roll On Like A River: Richard Precht, A Virginia Man Living on $1200 a Month, Won Bankruptcy Discharge of Nearly $100,000 in Student-Loan Debt

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Amos 5:24
On July 7 2015, the Department of Education issued a letter outlining guidelines for determining when the Department and its student-loan collection agencies would not oppose bankruptcy relief for distressed student-loan debtors. DOE listed 11 factors that it would consider, including these:

1) "Whether a debtor is approaching retirement, taking into account the debtor's age at the time student loans were incurred and resources likely to be available to the debtor in retirement to repay a student loan . . ."

2) "Whether a debtor's health has materially changed since the student loan debt was incurred . . . ."

Frankly, I thought DOE's letter was insincere and that DOE would continue to oppose bankruptcy relief for nearly everyone and that it would persist in insisting that virtually every distressed student-loan debtor must be placed in a long-term income-based repayment plan. But perhaps I was wrong. 

In October 2015, Richard Precht, age 68, filed for bankruptcy and asked to have his student-loan debt discharged.  Mr. Precht as it turned out was the perfect person to test whether DOE meant what it said in its  July 2015 letter.  He was living in retirement and was in ill health and was burdened with almost $100,000 in student-loan debt.

In fact, his circumstances were desperate. Mr. Precht was living on a small pension and a small Social Security check, but both were being garnished by the federal government. His total income was only $1,200 a month and he was forced to live with his adult daughter because his income was not sufficient for him to afford housing.

Precht filed for bankruptcy in Virginia, and the federal court system quickly issued a scheduling order that put his case on track for a trial before a bankruptcy judge. Fortunately, Mr. Precht was ready to proceed with his case without delay. He had prepared nearly a thousand pages of exhibits outlining his financial circumstances, his health status, and his loan payment history over the years.

Initially, DOE opposed Precht's petition for relief. DOE's lawyer filed a motion to strike, asking the bankruptcy judge to order Precht to refile his complaint on technical grounds. But fortunately for Mr. Precht, the bankruptcy judge had read DOE's July 2015 letter. 

At the hearing, the judge pointedly asked DOE's attorney what DOE planned to do about that letter. The attorney's candid reply was, "We don't know."

But apparently, the policy makers at DOE considered the matter and decided to do the right thing. A few days after the hearing on DOE's motion to strike, the DOE attorney called Mr. Precht and said the Department would not oppose bankruptcy relief. DOE prepared an order for the bankruptcy judge to sign that relieved Mr. Precht of all his bankruptcy debt--a miracle of almost biblical proportions.

As the prophet Amos said: "Let justice roll on like a river." Mr. Precht won a life-altering victory for himself, and his case points the way for hundreds of thousands of people similarly situated. More than 150,000 elderly student-loan debtors are having their Social Security checks garnished, and millions of people are now in long-term income repayment plans that obligate them to pay on their student-loans until they are in their 70s, their 80s, and even their 90s!

Personally, I don't think Mr. Precht's victory signals a change of attitude at the Department of Education. I think he was able to prevail because he was prepared to go to trial and his case was so strong.  As of this writing, DOE still opposes bankruptcy relief for almost all student borrowers.

Nevertheless, Mr. Precht's victory is significant. His case demonstrates that truly deserving student-loan debtors who prepare good cases can prevail in bankruptcy court, even if they are not represented by an attorney.

References


Lynn Mahaffie, Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings.  U.S. Dep’t of Educ., July 7, 2015, DCL ID: GEN-15-13.

Precht v. United States Department of Education, AD PRO 15-01167-RGM (Bankr. E.D. Va. Feb. 11, 2016 (Consent Order).

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Distressed Student-Loan Debtors in the Bankruptcy Courts: What Can You Do To Improve Your Odds of Obtaining A Discharge?

Federal bankruptcy courts have decided a number of cases over the years involving student-loan debtors seeking to wipe out their student loans by filing for bankruptcy. In some cases, the courts have discharged people's student loan debt;  and in other cases, the courts have refused a discharge. And the results aren't consistent.

For example, in the Hedlund case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted partial relief to Michael Hedlund, a relatively young law-school  graduate who had failed to pass the bar exam. But recently, in the Tetzlaff case, the Eighth Circuit refused to grant relief to an older law-school graduate who had also failed the bar and who had a much larger student-loan debt than Mr. Hedlund.

Likewise, just last week, an Alabama bankruptcy court refused to discharge student loan debt owed by a grandfather who had borrowed money back in the 1990s for a degree program he never completed even though the man was living with his wife on $2,000 a month and was broke enough to have his other debts discharged. But another Alabama bankruptcy judge discharged the student-loan debt of a woman in her 40s who had a pretty good job.

In this essay, I am going to try to give at least some partial answers to two questions:

  • First, when will the Department of Education and its loan collection agencies agree to allow a student-loan debtor to discharge student-loan debt in bankruptcy?  In other words, how bad does a debtor's financial situation need to be before DOE will tell a bankruptcy court that it will not oppose the discharge of student loan debt?
  • Second, what factors seem to weigh in the debtor's favor when trying to discharge student loans in a bankruptcy court proceeding?
I. DOE and Student-Loan Creditors Oppose Bankruptcy Relief For Nearly Everyone

Regarding the first question, DOE stated in a July 2015 letter that it would not oppose bankruptcy discharge in certain situations, and it listed 11 factors it would consider when deciding whether or not to agree to a discharge. Those factors are what you might suppose and include the debtor's age, health status and long-term economic prospects.  Supposedly, DOE won't oppose bankruptcy discharge for elderly people living on Social Security or people with very serious health problems.

In practice, however, DOE and its debt-collection agencies oppose bankruptcy relief for nearly everyone--even people who are ill and flat broke.  DOE's standard line is that everyone should be forced into a long-term income-based repayment plan, even when it is clear the debtor is so poor that that he or she will never be required to pay anything.

For example, in the Myhre case, DOE opposed bankruptcy relief for a quadriplegic man who was gainfully employed but whose expenses exceeded his income because he had to employ a full-time caregiver to feed and dress him and drive him back and forth to work.  A quadriplegic, for God's sake! Fortunately, the court rejected DOE's arguments and ruled for Mr. Myhre.

In the Roth case, Educational Credit Management Corporation (DOE's most ruthless collection agent) opposed bankruptcy relief for Jane Roth, a 68-year old woman with chronic health problems who was living on less than $800 a month.  Put her in a 25-year repayment plan, ECMC argued, even though it was apparent that Roth would never be able to pay back her student loans.  

In the Abney case, DOE opposed relief for Michael Abney, a 40-year old man who was so poor he couldn't afford a car and road a bicycle to work. Abney was living on $1200 a month, and the bankruptcy court ruled that his long-term economic prospects were not likely to improve any time soon.  Put him on a long-term repayment plan, DOE insisted; but the bankruptcy court sided with Mr. Abney and discharged his student-loan debt.

And just last week, ECMC persuaded an Illinois bankruptcy court to keep Brenda Butler in a 25-year repayment plan that she won't complete until 2037--42 years after she graduated from college! And by the way, Butler was unemployed at the time of her adversary proceeding.

So if you read DOE's July 2015 letter, just ignore it. In spite of representations by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education Lynn Mahaffie that DOE won't oppose bankruptcy relief in some instances, in reality, DOE DOESN'T WANT ANYONE TO GET BANKRUPTCY RELIEF.  DOE wants virtually everyone in a 20- or 25-year repayment plan--even if that means people will be saddled with student-loan debt into their 90s.

II. What Can You Do To Increase Your Odds of Obtaining a Discharge of Your Student-Loan Debt?

Now let's turn to the second question: What factors weigh in a person's favor when trying to discharge student-loan debt in a bankruptcy court? There have been several scholarly articles on this topic--Rafael Pardo's work is especially helpful. By and large, the research tells us that people with serious long-term health issues are more likely to obtain relief than people in good health. And it helps to have a competent lawyer.

But a friend of mine has gone to the trouble of calling some of the people who have tried to discharge their student-loan debt in bankruptcy over the past two yeas, and he's briefed me on what he learned. This is what I've gleaned from these conversations:

First, it helps to prepare well in advance of filing your adversary complaint and to be able to document all student-loan payments that you made and all medical issues that are relevant. In my opinion, it makes sense to file a complaint that contains a lot of detail.  Filing a detailed complaint may help educate the bankruptcy judge about your circumstances early in the litigation instead of on the day of trial.

Second, if you are representing yourself and don't have an attorney, be wary of agreeing to anything the creditor's attorney suggests. For example, in a recent case, a Department of Education attorney persuaded a debtor to agree that it would not be an "undue hardship" to pay back his student loans, even though the guy was in bankruptcy for that very reason.  The debtor wasn't aware that by agreeing to what the attorney suggested, he had lost his case. And in fact, case law would have supported an argument that indeed it would have been an undue hardship to repay his student loans. 

Third, it is good to have an attorney, but your attorney must know the law--especially the recent cases that have ruled more compassionately toward student-loan debtors. In another recent case--a real heart breaker, an unemployed woman in her 40s, who had made good faith efforts to pay on her student loans for 20 years, got locked into a 25-year repayment plan that won't conclude until she is in her 60s. Apparently, the judge was never made aware that courts have granted relief to several people within the last 2 years whose financial situations were far better than hers.

Whether or not you have an attorney, you must know the law. Find out whether you are in a jurisdiction that follows the three-pronged Brunner test for determining whether it would be an undue hardship for a debtor to pay back student loans or whether you are in a jurisdiction that has adopted the "totality of circumstances" test.  

You should be aware that most judges won't require you to have lived on bread and water in order to qualify for a discharge of your student loans. For example, several courts have rejected creditors' arguments that student-loan debtors are not living frugally if they have a cell phone, an Internet account, or a pet. If your creditor makes that argument (and it will), it would be good to be able to cite those cases.  

You should be able to tell the judge that several courts in the Brunner jurisdictions have refused to interpret the Brunner test harshly and some have even criticized the test. You should point out those cases to your judge in your trial brief.

Finally, you should know the cases in which judges have refused to force distressed student-loan debtors into 25-year repayment plans. A couple of courts have pointed out the psychological stress that a long-term repayment plan can have on a person. It is essential for you to be able to educate your judge about court decisions that have rejected the creditors' stock argument, which is to force everyone into long-term repayment plans.

III. Remember--Your Judge May Be Sympathetic

Finally, you should know that there factors at work that are beyond a student-loan debtor's control--the temperament of the bankruptcy judge.  I think many of these judges are inclined to be sympathetic toward student-loan debtors--many of whom have been crushed not by their loans but by the creditors' collection fees and accruing interest. I believe many of these judges want to help you. After all, the bankruptcy judges know that the bankruptcy courts exist in order to give honest but unfortunate debtors a fresh start.

And it is also evident that some bankruptcy judges are willing to do a lot of research and to write impressively reasoned decisions in favor of student-loan debtors. The judge in Acosta-Coniff v. ECMC , the judge in Johnson v. Sallie Mae, and the judge in Abney v. Department of Education went to a lot of trouble to write decisions in favor of student-loan debtors that will have a good chance of being upheld by the appellate courts if a creditor appeals. But you can help your judge tremendously if you can point out recent cases in your trial brief that have been decided recently in favor of student-loan debtors whose cases are similar to yours. 

Trying to discharge your student loans in bankruptcy is a daunting challenge. You will be opposed by squadrons of creditors' attorneys who know the law and who show no mercy.  And if you win, the creditors are likely to appeal, hoping they will wear you down and you will simply give up.

But I believe in my heart that the winds of justice are blowing through the bankruptcy courts and that many bankruptcy judges are willing to help you if you have a good case.  But, to repeat myself,  you will help your judge tremendously if you educate the judges to the recent favorable decisions--Roth, Krieger, and more than a dozen others.  

If you are a distressed student-loan debtor with a reasonable case for discharge, go to the bankruptcy court and plead for  justice. You have a good chance of getting the justice you deserve. 

As they sometimes say in the Southwest, vaya con Dios.






Saturday, January 2, 2016

Old and in the Way: Hundreds of thousands of elderly student-loan debtors are experiencing real financial hardship, and the federal government doesn't care


Old and in the way, that's what I heard them say
They used to heed the words he said, but that was yesterday
Gold will turn to gray and youth will fade away
They'll never care about you, call you old and in the way


Old and In the Way
Lyrics and music by David Grisman

Many Americans think student-loan defaulters are young scofflaws who obtained valuable university degrees and simply refuse to pay back their loans.

But that stereotype could not be further from the truth.

In fact, most of the people who defaulted on their student loans simply fell on hard times. Many acquired their degrees from for-profit universities that charged far too much for substandard educational experiences. Millions of people who attended for-profit colleges found themselves worse off financially after finishing their studies than they were before they enrolled in these sleazy institutions.

Some people borrowed money to obtain undergraduate degrees and were unable to find jobs that paid well enough for them to service their loans. Some of these unfortunate souls doubled down and borrowed more money to go to graduate school.  Those who borrowed to go to law school found a collapsing job market for lawyers.

Other  student-loan borrowers became ill, got divorced or were laid off from their jobs. For a thousand different reasons, millions of student-loan debtors fell off the ladder in their climb toward economic security and never recovered. In short, most people who defaulted on their student loans simply did not have the financial resources to make their loan payments.

And many student-loan defaulters are elderly.

As Natalie Kitroeff reported recently in Bloomburg Business Week, about one out of four student-loan debtors age 65 and older are in default. Half the student loans held by people who are 75 years old or older are in default.  And 155,000 elderly Americans are having their Social Security checks garnished due to defaulted student loans, an enormous increase from 2002, when only 31,000 Americans were having their Social Security checks garnished.

Surely all humane people can agree that the federal government should not be garnishing elderly people's Social Security checks to collect on defaulted student loans. Or perhaps we can't. In the Lockhart decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government's authority to garnish the Social Security checks of student-loan defaulters. And get this: The decision was unanimous. There were no liberals on the Supreme Court on the day the Lockhart case was decided.

But perhaps humane people can at least agree that the government should not oppose bankruptcy relief for student-loan defaulters who are living on Social Security income of less than $800 a month. But again, perhaps we can't. Educational Credit Management Corporation actually opposed bankruptcy relief for Jane Roth, a 68-year-old woman with chronic health problems who was living on a monthly Social Security check of only$774.

Fortunately, the Ninth Circuit Bankruptcy Appellate Panel was considerably more compassionate than ECMC, and it discharged Roth's student loan debt.

I once thought the Roth decision might bring the federal government to its senses and that it would issue strict orders against opposing bankruptcy relief for student-loan defaulters living entirely off their Social Security checks. But I was wrong.

In fact the Obama administration is ignoring the Roth decision. The Department of Education issued a guidance letter in July 2015 (the Mahaffie letter) outlining when student-loan creditors should not oppose bankruptcy relief for insolvent college-loan borrowers; and it did not even mention the Roth decision.  And the Department of Education's lawyers filed a pleading in a California bankruptcy court last month arguing that the Roth decision is not binding on any bankruptcy court.

For all its blah-blah-blah about providing relief for distressed student-loan debtors, the Obama administration's Department of Education is doing little more than pitching long-term repayment plans whereby student-loan borrowers are forced to make loan payments for 20 or 25 years.

And DOE's lawyers run like hounds to the bankruptcy courts to oppose bankruptcy discharge for insolvent student loan debtors, regardless of their age.

In short, if you are an elderly person who defaulted on your student loans you have no friends in the Obama administration. As far as the President Obama's Department of Education is concerned, you are just old and in the way.


References

Natalie Kitroeff. Student Debt May Be the Next Crisis Facing Elderly Americans. Bloomberg Businessweek, December 18, 2015.  Accessible at:  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-18/student-debt-may-be-the-next-crisis-facing-elderly-americans

Lockhart v. United States, 546 U.S. 142 (2005).

Lynn Mahaffie, Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings. CL ID: GEN 15-13, July 7, 2015. Accessible at: https://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1513.pdf

U.S. General Accounting Office. Older Americans: Inability to Repay Student Loans May Affect Financial Security of a Small Percentage of Borrowers. GAO-14-866T. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-866T

U.S. Department of Education. Strengthening the Student Loan System to Better Protect All Borrowers.  Washington, D.C., October 1, 2015: Author. Accessible: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/strengthening-student-loan-system.pdf

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Department of Education's Lynn Mahaffie wrote a disingenuous letter outlining when the Department of Education will not oppose bankruptcy discharge for student-loan debtors under the Undue Hardship rule

The Department of Education's Lynn Mahaffie issued a letter last July outlining when DOE and its debt collectors will not oppose bankruptcy discharge for student-loan debtors.  In fact, Mahaffie's letter is disingenuous.

Reading Mahaffie's letter, you might think DOE and its debt-collecting lackeys would not oppose a bankruptcy discharge for student-loan debtors who are in truly distressing circumstances or when it would be pointless to try to collect the debt. But you would be wrong.

In fact, DOE and its debt collectors oppose bankruptcy discharge for nearly everyone.

Here are some examples:

In Myhre v. Department of Education, DOE opposed bankruptcy discharge for a quadriplegic student-loan debtor who was working almost full time but could not make enough money to pay his living expenses, including the cost of a full-time caregiver.

In Roth v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, ECMC, perhaps DOE's most ruthless debt collector, opposed a bankruptcy discharge for a 68-year-old woman with chronic health issues who was living on a Social Security check of less than $800 a month.

In Abney v. U.S. Department of Education, decided after Mahaffie's letter was issued, DOE opposed a bankruptcy discharge for a man living on less than $1200 a month and who rode a bicycle to work because he couldn't afford a car.  This poor guy was making child-support payments that almost equaled his take-home pay and had lost his home to foreclosure. In fact, this man's situation was so desperate that he lived for a time in the cab of of one of his employer's trucks. And DOE demanded that he be put in a 25-year repayment plan!

Mahaffie's letter listed several factors for determining when to oppose a student-loan debtor's bankruptcy discharge, including the debtor's age and health status. But DOE is garnishing the Social Security checks of 150,000 elderly people and fights bankruptcy relief without regard to a student-loan debtor's health status. Hey, if DOE fights bankruptcy discharge for a quadriplegic, it fights it for everyone.

And Mayaffie also indicated that DOE and student-loan creditors wouldn't fight bankruptcy discharge if litigation costs outweighed the likely benefits. But in Kelly v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, ECMC chased a student-loan debtor through the federal courts for seven years!

Frankly, Mahaffie's letter is insincere. Contrary to the representations in her letter, the Department of Education and Educational Credit Management Corporation fight nearly every student-loan bankruptcy with almost desperate ferocity.  It knows that millions of people are entitled to bankruptcy relief from their student-loan debt under standards being laid down by compassionate bankruptcy courts. And it knows if student-loan debtors start getting the relief to which they are entitled under basic principles of fairness and justice, the student loan program will collapse.


Picture of Lynn Mahaffie, Deputy Assistant Secy for Policy, Planning and Innovation, U.S. Dept of Education
Lynn Mahaffie, J.D.
DOE's Deputy Assistant Secretary wrote a disingenous letter

References

Lynn Mahaffie, Undue Hardship Discharge of Title IV Loans in Bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings. CL ID: GEN 15-13, July 7, 2015. 

Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education, 503 B.R. 698 (Bakr. W.D. Wis. 2013).

Roth v. Educational Credit Management Corporation, 490 B.R. 908 (9th Cir. BAP 2013).