In 2014, student loan behemoth Sallie Mae announced that it would spinoff a new company to originate its federally guaranteed education loans. The company would be called Navient and in its brief existence, it has already been investigated by no less than four federal agencies for questionable business practices, including taking advantage of their military service member clients.
Navient has already come to a $97 million settlement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC), the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, based on its practice of tacking excessive fees onto student loans and overcharging interest. Now, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is also looking into filing a lawsuit against the company.
In a disclosure to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Navient made public that in August, it had received a letter from the CFPB indicating that legal action could be recommended against the company over its “disclosures and assessment of late fees and other matters.” The letter is a Notice and Opportunity to Respond and Advise, known as a NORA, and it was meant to give Navient a chance to provide answers to questions about its practices before the bureau makes its recommendation.
Navient says that it will respond to the letter in an effort to resolve any concerns about its practices, but it’s looking less and less likely that there’s anything the company can do at this point to stem the rising tide of criticism from a whole host of government agencies.
In August, Inspector General Kathleen Tighe’s office was issued a letter by a number of senators, alleging that there were discrepancies in an investigation by the Department of Education into the compliance of Navient and other student loan providers with the Service members Civil Relief Act. That’s because while the latest Dept of Ed review determined that less than 1% of service member loans held through the companies in question were in violation of the SCRA, a 2014 investigation into the same matter found that nearly 78,000 service members were overcharged by Navient and Sallie Mae.
On top of that, the Huffington Post has recently reported that Navient is being eyed by the state offices in New York, Illinois and Washington for its debt collection practices. So just what will all this scrutiny mean for the future of one of the largest education loan providers in the nation? Only time, and perhaps the federal courts, can tell.
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