Several important legal cases are pending in federal courts, many of them naming student loan service provider, Navient, as a party to the case. In fact, the number of lawsuits made against federal student loan servicers has increased rapidly over the past few years.
Navient, along with federal student loan provider, Nelnet, have been named as parties in these lawsuits. Currently, the state attorneys general for the states of California, Illinois, Washington and Illinois have filed lawsuits against Navient. These lawsuits follow an earlier lawsuit filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in January 2017, which alleged that Navient had incorrectly processed student loan payments, which, in turn, kept borrowers who were struggling to meet their monthly payments from being able to make lower repayments.
These lawsuits have come at a time when faith is being lost in the current administration and its motivation to protect borrowers from lenders, like Navient, who they say take advantage of borrowers and their inability to make payments. The CFPB created the Office of Students and Young Consumers during the Obama administration as a way to protect the rights of borrowers, but recent moves by the Trump administration have taken this office and moved it into the larger Office of Financial Education. As a result of these controversial changes, the prior CFPB student loan ombudsman, Seth Frotman, resigned in protest. In his resignation letter, he accused the administration of changing the mission of the CFPB and failing to protect borrowers from predatory lending practices.
Now the state attorneys general offices feel that it is their responsibility to protect their constituents if the federal government refuses to do so, which has led to these recent lawsuits. These states have alleged similar grounds as were alleged in the CFPB suit against Navient by saying that the company put borrowers into temporary forbearances on their loans when they should have worked with them on signing them up for income-based repayment plans.
Forbearance suspends borrowers’ monthly payments but keeps the interest accruing in the interim. Even taking off just a few months from making payments on the loan, can add hundreds even thousands of dollars to the balance due to interest. Therefore, once the forbearance period ends, which is meant to be a temporary period of time, the borrower will owe substantially more than he or she did at the start due to the interest rates running during the forbearance.
These states argue that the borrowers would have qualified for income-based repayment plans which would offer a lower monthly payment that they could arguably meet. These plans would have allowed them to stay up on their payments and not fall behind. In addition, making the monthly payments lower would make it easier for these borrowers to eventually be considered for loan discharge.
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