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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Why Does the Department of Education Hate Student Loan Debtors Just So Much? Article by Steve Rhode

By  on October 25, 2017

If I was ever to get into an academic research argument on the role of government, this would be the time. Frankly I’m just getting pissed off by the apparent disregard for student loan debtors by the Trump Department of Education. And before you react that this is a Trump reaction, it’s not. This is an outrage and embarrassment of the actions taken collectively against consumers and student when it comes to student loan debt.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – Source
The last administration was trying to protect students from being misled by schools to enroll them based on false promises and employment assertions. That’s been significantly halted.
The previous administration expanded the Borrower Defense to Repayment program to allow students who had been defrauded by their schools a chance to have their loans forgiven and the loans clawed back from the schools. That’s been significantly halted.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is suing Navient over poor student loan servicing and Navient says it has no duty to provide good advice to student loan debtors. The Department of Education is not participating in that fight by backing up the CFPB and in fact has said they will stop sharing information with the CFPB.
Now we will have to see what the Department of Education does next on this. The student loan lending industry is making the argument to the Department of Education they should not be subject to state probes into their industry. The position is the federal law and should prevent states from investigating the abusive practices of the student loan industry.
Just to show you how crazy this has all become, even Texas thinks this argument is crap and Texas has typically been the business comes first state.
“Joining a bipartisan coalition of 25 states, Attorney General Ken Paxton today called on U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to reject a campaign by student loan servicers and debt collectors to dismantle state oversight of the student loan industry. In recent years, Texas and other states investigated and prosecuted a number of student loan industry abuses, winning settlements in the tens of millions of dollars for vulnerable student borrowers.
In a letter to Secretary DeVos, Attorney General Paxton and his counterparts point out that the student loan industry continues to lobby the U.S. Department of Education for more control and autonomy at a time when it is still in urgent need of reform.” – Source
If the Department of Education was doing anything to hold schools and lenders accountable for the massive levels of student loan debt issued with fraud and serviced with incompetence then maybe all of these events would not matter, because they would not happen or be allowed to continue.
But I’ve got an old expression for you: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

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This article appeared on the Personal Finance Syndication Network web site and also on The Get Out of Debt Guy site. Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve here.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Recent Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Bankruptcy Rulings – March 2017: A Must-Read Article by Steve Rhode

If you are overwhelmed by your student loans and thinking about filing for bankruptcy, you should read this essay by Steve Rhode. Mr. Rhode examined recent bankruptcy court adversary proceedings in which student borrowers brought complaints against Navient or National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. As Mr. Rhode relates, debtors often won significant relief in these lawsuits--sometimes through settlement agreements.

Why is Mr. Rhode's article important to you?

First, his article contains links to adversary complaints that were drafted by attorneys. If you file your own adversary complaint against your student-loan creditor, you can use these complaints as templates to file your own complaint.

Second, the proceedings Mr. Rhode examined show various theories under which debtors sought to have their loans discharged. Some of those theories might work for you.

I am frankly surprised that debtors were so successful in the cases Mr. Rhode analyzed. I wonder whether Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust are more amenable to settlement than Educational Credit Management Corporation and the U.S. Department of Education. ECMC and the Department of Education have opposed bankruptcy relief in a multitude of cases, even in cases where it was clear the debtor was desperate. (See for example, Roth v. ECMC and Abney v. U.S. Department of Education.)

Mr. Rhode has presented us with a very useful analysis of recent adversary proceedings against Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. A trend may be developing toward better bankruptcy outcomes for distressed student-loan debtors. Wouldn't that be a terrific development?




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Out of curiosity I decided to take a look at recent bankruptcy Adversary Proceedings that had closed against Navient and National Collegiate Student Loan Trust. I looked at a number of cases and it appears people who filed their own Adversary Proceeding against their student loan holders had a less favorable outcome. Those people represented by an attorney, fair better.

At the very least, while the debt may not have been completely eliminated there were certainly some very deep discounts in the amount owed. Also the outcomes in all cases is not always apparent.

For example in Medina v. National Collegiate Student Loan Trust there was an apparent settlement agreement that contained a “release of liability. The Adversary Proceeding was then dismissed. – Source

Medina had asserted in his lawyer prepared complaint that his student loans should be discharged because his flight school was a “sham,” the loans were not used for a qualified educational purpose, and the school was not properly certified. These are issues raised over in this article. – Source

In the case Ard-Kelly v Sallie Mae the debtor owed $913,997 in loans. Of those loans all but $250,595 could be included in a $0 monthly Income Contingent Repayment plan. – Source

It appears all but $219,070 was found to be dischargeable in bankruptcy. While $219,070 is still a lot of money, it’s only 24% of the original balance stated. – Source

In Cotter v. Navient, the debtor had filed a Chapter 13 bankruptcy but was said to have still owed about $29,000 in student loan debt. Cotter stated, “Plaintiff incurred this student loan attending a school named ComputerTraining.com. The campus was located at 550 Polaris Parkway Westerville Ohio 43082. The Plaintiff started classes at said school on November 16, 2007 and was able to finish however the education he received was substandard, outdated and useless to him. Furthermore the school promised lifetime job placement assistance along with assistance with interviewing and resumes. The school he attended closed soon after he finished. The school in question is currently part of a class action lawsuit for fraud.” – Source

Following the court action regarding this debt the $29,000 balance was reduced to $2,500 with payments of $35.79 per month at 1% interest. This is about a 92% reduction in the amount owed. The debt will be fully repaid in 72 months. – Source

In Proctor v. Navient the debtor had co-signed for student loans for someone who was not a relative or dependent and said to not be qualified student loans protected in bankruptcy. – Source

The $188,787 balance was reduced to $15,535 at 3% interest and payments of $107.28 per month for 180 months. This is about a 92% reduction in the amount owed. – Source

So as you can see, recent closed bankruptcy Adversary Proceeding cases do result generally in some significant reductions in debt owed.

Steve Rhode
Get Out of Debt Guy
Twitter, G+, Facebook

This article by Steve Rhode first appeared on Get Out of Debt Guy and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Student Debtors and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Trump needs to strengthen the CFPB, not weaken it

Last January, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Navient Corporation, a student-loan debt collector, accusing the company of "systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment."

According to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, Navient cheated student borrowers by making it more difficult for them to pay back their college loans. "At every stage of repayment, Navient chose to shortcut and deceive consumers to save on operating costs," Cordray charged. "Too many borrowers paid more for their loans because Navient illegally cheated them , , , "

Specifically, the CFPB accused Navient of these illegal practices:
  • Failing to correctly apply and allocate borrowers' payments to their student-loan accounts. "Navient repeatedly misapplies and misallocates payments--often making the same error multiple times,"  the CFPB alleged. And all too often, Navient would not correct its errors unless a borrower discovered the problem and brought it to Navient's attention.
  • Giving struggling borrowers bad advice about student-loan repayment options.  The CFPB also accused Navient of steering student debtors toward costly forbearance options when they were having trouble making their monthly loan payments. These options give borrowers a break from making their payments, but the interest continues to accrue during forbearance. CFPB believes Navient should have helped borrowers get into income-driven repayment plans (IDRs) that would lower their monthly payments instead of encouraging them to apply for forbearances.
  • "Obscur[ing] information" borrowers needed to remain in income-driven repayment plans. The CFPB also said Navient failed to adequately inform borrowers about what they need to do to maintain their eligibility for income-driven repayment plans. Once borrowers enter those plans, their monthly payments are determined by their annual income; but to remain eligible, borrowers must recertify their income every calendar year. Apparently, a lot of borrowers in IDRs do not know they are required to recertify their income on an annual basis.
As the New York Times said in an editorial, CFPB's charges against Navient "have the ring of truth." Without question, student borrowers who opt to skip loan payments temporarily under  a government-approved forbearance plan see their loan balances grow dramatically due to accruing interest, which accelerates their descent into default. And it seems evident that people in income-driven repayment plans don't understand what they need to do to maintain their eligibility; half the people who enroll in IDRs get kicked out of them for failing to recertify their income on an annual basis.

The student-loan debt collectors are hoping President Trump will dismantle or cripple the CFPB, which would prevent the agency from bringing lawsuits like the one it brought against Navient. And perhaps he will.

But I am hoping the Trump administration  surprises the corporate fat cats and throws its full support behind CFPB's lawsuit against Navient.  Indeed, the CFPB needs to become a lot more aggressive.

In my view, the CFPB should investigate the student loan guaranty agencies that are making a fortune in the student-loan collection business. As the Century Foundation reported last year, four of these agencies have amassed $ 1 billion apiece through servicing and collecting student loans.

Educational Credit Management Corporation, which holds a billion dollars in unrestricted assets, is particularly ruthless. Just last year, a federal bankruptcy judge assessed punitive damages against ECMC for repeatedly violating the automatic stay provision of the Bankruptcy Code by garnishing the wages of a Starbucks employee more than 30 times after she filed for bankruptcy in an effort to collect on a defaulted student loan.

In short, there is a lot for the CFPB to do, and the Navient lawsuit is only a small step in the right direction. It would be a tragedy if the corporate interests defanged the CFPB, which is only now getting serious about protecting student-loan debtors from abuse.

Richard Cordray, CFPB Director
photo credit: Getty Images

References

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

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. CFPB Sues Nation's Largest Student Loan Company Navient for Failing Borrowers at Every Stage of Repayment. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Press Release, January 18, 2017.

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/

Bob Sullivan. Will a Trump presidency lead to more predatory lending? Market Watch, January 18, 2017.

Unfairly Squeezing Student BorrowersNew York Times, February 4, 2017.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Reflections on Gretchen Morgenson's Recent New York Times Column on Student-Loan Processing Companies

Gretchen Morgenson is the New York Times' best columnist. Week after week, she writes with clarity and precision about the shady dealings of our nation's financial industry.  In fact, in some issues, Morgenson's column is the only writer worth reading in the Sunday Times.

Thus, I was pleased when I opened the Business Section of yesterday's Sunday Times and saw Morgenson's column on the student-loan servicing industry. As she pointed out, the U.S.  government pays 11 companies a total of $600 million a year to service millions of student loans. And these companies are doing a terrible job.

A recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Morgenson summarized, analyzed numerous complaints by student-loan borrowers. The loan servicing companies are giving out misinformation, failing to record loan payments properly, and failing to tell borrowers about payment options that might help them stay out of default.

In short, it's a mess. I hope Ms. Morgenson digs deeper into the activities of the loan servicing companies.  Here are some questions I have: Who are the senior executives of these companies: Navient, Discover Bank, Great Lakes, and the rest? What is the annual compensation of the fat cats who run the companies  that are mishandling the loan-collection process?  Are these companies making campaign contributions to key federal legislators? If so, which Congresspeople are getting the money, and how much?

And I would really like Ms. Morgenson to turn her attention to Educational Credit Management Corporation, the most prominent company that opposes bankruptcy relief for student-loan debtors. The Times recently published a story about ECMC's ruthless tactics in the bankruptcy courts,  and it ran another story about ECMC's tactics in the Roth case, involving an elderly woman with chronic health problems who was living on Social Security checks of less than $800 a month.

How much does ECMC's CEO make? We know that former CEO Richard Boyle made $1.1 million in 2010. What is the current CEO's annual compensation to run a company that hounds oppressed student-loan debtors? And to whom is ECMC making campaign contributions?

A lot of good investigative reporting needs to be done about the student-loan industry. And Gretchen Morgenson is probably the best person to do it. Go for it, Gretchen!

References

Tara Siegel Bernard. Judges Rebuke Limits On Wiping Out Student Loan Debt. New York Times, July 17, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/18/your-money/student-loans/judges-rebuke-limits-on-wiping-out-student-loan-debt.html

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

Gretchen Morgenson. A Student Loan System Stacked Against the Borrower. New York Times, October 9, 2015. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/business/a-student-loan-system-stacked-against-the-borrower.html

John Hechinger. Taxpayers Fund $454,000 Pay for Collector Chasing Student Loans. Bloomberg.com, May 15, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-15/taxpayers-fund-454-000-pay-for-collector-chasing-student-loans.html