Showing posts with label usury. Show all posts
Showing posts with label usury. Show all posts

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Minnesota Court of Appeals upholds fraud verdict against Minnesota School of Business and Globe University

Last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a fraud verdict against Minnesota School of Business (MSB) and Globe University (Globe). This is the latest setback for MSB, which has experienced several regulatory and litigation woes in recent years.
2018: MSB/Globe University Lose a Fraud Suit in Minnesota Court of Appeals

In 2014, the  Minnesota Attorney General’s Office sued MSB and its sister school, Globe University, accusing the two schools of violating the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act and the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. According to the Minnesota AG Lori Swanson, MSB/Globe  mislead prospective students to believe that the schools' four-year criminal-justice program would lead to a becoming police officer and that it's two-year criminal-justice program would lead to becoming a probation officer.
These programs were expensive, ranging from $39,000 to $78,000. As the Minnesota Attorney General's Office said in its recent press release, "As a result of the schools’ misrepresentations, many students were saddled with large amounts of student loan debt without the ability after graduation to obtain a job in their chosen career field of serving Minnesota’s citizens as police and probation officers."
After a 17-day trial, a Minnesota trial court ordered restitution for 15 students who testified they had been defrauded and approved a restitution program that would enable other students to file fraud claims as well. Under the trial court's order, these claimants "would receive a rebuttable presumption of harm and causation."

MSB and Global appealed this ruling, and last month, the Minnesota Court of Appeals approved part of the trial court's judgment but not all of it. The appellate court ruled that the 15 testifying students had adequately proved their injuries and causation under the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act. Therefore the trial judge's restitution order for these 15 students was upheld.

On the other hand, the appellate court ruled that the state had not satisfied its burden of showing a causal nexus between MSB/Globe's representations and injury to students who had not testified at trial. Therefore, the trial court's restitution plan for other students was not approved by the appellate court.
2017: Minnesota Supreme Court rules MSB loaned student money at usurious interest rates 

Last month’s decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals is MSB’s latest litigation setback. Last year, after a long, drawn-out lawsuit brought by the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that MSB had charged its students usurious interest rates and had loaned students money without having a valid lender's license.

According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, MSB had loaned students money at interest rates ranging from 14 to 18 percent. The students never saw this money; it went directly to the school to pay students' tuition and fees.

Minnesota has a usury law that caps interest rates at 8 percent unless the lender offers an open-end  credit plan. MSB had not loaned students money pursuant to an open-end credit plan, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled; therefore its interest rates were usurious under state law. In addition, the court concluded, MSB was in the business of making loans and had loaned money to its students without having the required state license.

2016: MSB/Globe's Fraud Ruling Led Minnesota to Revoke MSB/Globe’s Authority to Operate

In September 2016, in the wake of the trial court's fraud ruling against MSB, Larry Pogemiller, Minnesota Commissioner of Higher Education, revoked MSB/Globe's authorization to operate in the state of Minnesota.   Last month's ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, partly affirming the trial judge's fraud decision, would seem to vindicate Pogemiller's decision.

And then there was more bad news for MSB/Globe. In December 2016, The U.S. Department of Education revoked the two school's access to federal student-aid money, which provided the bulk of the schools' operating revenues.

Globe University Continues to Survive in Wisconsin

One might think that all this litigation and regulatory pressure would cause MSB and Globe to shut down completely; but--like a Timex watch, Globe University, at least, has kept on ticking. Broadview University, another for-profit school owned by the same people who own Globe and MSB, has purchased four Globe campuses in Wisconsin, and this purchase was approved by the Trump administration's Department of Education.

Jeanne Herrmann, Broadview's CEO, said claims against MSB/Globe were unfounded. “Whatever one may think of the motivations of the litigation in Minnesota, that state-specific allegation had and continues to have nothing to do with the school’s campuses outside of Minnesota, " Herrmann said in a written statement (as reported by Inside Higher Ed).
We'll Always Have Wisconsin!

So if you are a student who liked how you were treated in Minnesota by MSB or Globe, simply move to Wisconsin, where you can enroll at Broadview University, which is owned by the same nice folks who own MSB and Globe.  I’ll bet your credits will transfer, and you will enjoy the same friendly and professional service in Wisconsin that you got in Minnesota. You Betcha!


 References
Mark Brunswick. Globe U and Minn. School of Business must close, state says after fraud ruling. Star Tribune, September 9, 2016. 

Paul Fain. A Shuttered For-Profit Re-emerges. Inside Higher Education, August 9, 2017.

Christopher Magan. Globe U. and Minnesota School of Business to start closing campuses. Twin Cities Pioneer Press, December 21, 2016.

State of Minnesota v. Minnesota School of Business, A17-1740, 2018 Minn. App. LEXIS 277 (Minn. Ct. App. June 4, 2018).

State of Minnesota v. Minnesota School of Business, 899 N.W. 467 (Minn. 2017).

U.S. Department of Education. Globe University, Minnesota School of Business Denied Access to Federal Student Aid Dollars. U.S. Department of Education press release, December 6, 2016.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Borrowing money at interest: The root cause of the student loan crisis

Many people underestimate the magnitude of the student loan crisis because they forget that student-loan debtors are borrowing money at interest and that this interest gets added to the amount borrowed if the borrowers get behind on their payments.

Thus, when we read the published bankruptcy court opinions, we see debtor after debtor who is trying to discharge a debt that is two times or even three times the amount they orginially borrowed. For example, in In re Bene (2012), Donna Bene borrowed about $17,000 in the 1980s to finance an education that she never completed due to the fact she had to leave school to care for her aging parents. She was unable to make her loan payments, and by the time she filed for bankruptcy, the amount of her debt, including fees and accrued interest, was $56,000--three times the amount she originally borrowed!

The York Times, the Obama administration, and other fuzzy-minded liberals think that economic hardship deferments and income-based repayment plans (IBRPs) provide meaningful relief for overburdened student-loan borrowers, but they  are apparently ignoring the fact that interest accrues while people participate in these programs. People who obtain economic hardship deferments for a period of even three or four years will find the amount they owe has grown substantially. 

The case of In re Halverson illustrates this phenomenon. Mr. Halvserson obtained economic hardship deferments on his student loans for many years and was never in default. Nevertheless, by the time he filed for bankruptcy, when he was in his 60s, his $132,000 debt and grown to almost $300,000.

Likewise, people who participate in IBRPs and whose adjusted payments are less than the accruing interest on their loans will discover the amount they owe will grow over the years--not shrink--because the interest is piling up even though they are making regular payments.

The student-loan guarantee agencies, which are the creditors in student-loan bankruptcy cases, have been asking the bankruptcy courts to put debtors on 25-year IBRPs, which is just crazy.  Ms. Bene and Mr. Halverson would have both been in their 90s before completing their IBRPS had they been required to do so. Fortunately, the bankruptcy courts discharged their debts and did not make these unfortunate people go through such a heartless and fruitless exercise.

There was a time--in pre-Reformation Europe--when loaning money at interest was considered sinful. And not so long ago, the states had enforceable usury laws that put limits on the amount of interest that could be charged on a debt.   In the jurisdiction where I practiced law, a creditor could charge no more than 10.5 percent on most debts.  Today, however, banks and credit card agencies are virtually unrestricted in the amount of interest they can charge.

Dorothy Day, the greatest American Catholic of the 20th century and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, subscribed to the ancient Catholic doctrine on usury, and she refused to accept interest on money owed to the Catholic Worker.  In 1960, she famously returned interest on money owed the Catholic Worker by the City of New York. The City had bought a piece of property from the Catholic Worker for $68,700, but there was some delay in making payment. When the check arrived, it included an additional $3,579.39 in accrued interest.

Dorothy sent the interest money back to the City of New York with this explanation (Day, 1963, p. 191):
We are returning interest on the money we have recently received because we do not believe in "money-lending at interest." As Catholics we are acquainted with the early teaching of the Church. All the early Councils forbade it, declaring it reprehensible to make money by lending it out at interest . . . .
Today, unfortunately, American society runs on borrowed money.  Presently, our government is keeping interest rates low for the expressed purpose of encouraging people to buy and borrow more. And where has all this borrowing gotten us? Americans now owe trillions of dollars in debt, including $1 trillion in student-loan debt alone.  College tuition is now so high at both public and private colleges that students are forced to borrow in order to get an education.

There is no easy way back from the abyss, but we can start by easing the burdens being borne by overstressed student-loan borrowers and by putting firm caps on college tuition costs.

References

Dorothy Day. Loaves and Fishes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1963.

In re Bene, 474 B.R. 56 (Bankr. W.D.N.Y. 2012).

In re Halverson, 401 B.R. 378 (Bankr. D. Minn. 2009).