At first glance, it looked like one of those regular cases about collecting unpaid debt, in this case private student loan debt, that regulators had resolved multiple times before effortlessly. Well, not this time.
About a decade ago before the financial crisis, lenders were giving out private student loans to borrowers who were not ready to pay them back, much like the issue with mortgages. Similar to mortgages, these student loans were bundled into securities to be sold at a premium to a group of buyers, the largest being the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts.
After some time, there have been warnings of malpractice in debt collection methods, sparking an investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The malpractice was believed to be deceptive collection practices using legal documents.
In September, the CFPB worked in collaboration with Vantage Capital Group LLC to approve a new settlement. This settlement would have approved a third-party audit of more than 800,000 private student loans owned by the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts.
The primary goal of the audit was to help Vantage identify which education loans it could pursue.
Potentially, student loan borrowers who had experienced wage garnishments would get temporary relief. Borrowers who owe on loans that are deemed unpayable would be let off the hook, effectively a loan discharge or forgiveness.
Furthermore, the proposed agreement included a fine of $19 million on debt collectors involved in malpractice. The funds would be paid out as a restitution to affected borrowers.
What does this mean for the average consumer? Not much, but the development could mean quite a lot for private student loan borrowers who took out loans a decade ago. For starters, there’s a chance they could be released from their loan agreement; furthermore, if they were involved in any shady debt collections, then they could receive compensation at the end of the road.