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House Financial Services Committee Hosts Hearing Examining Student Loan Servicers

By Morgan Clemons on June 11, 2019
The House Financial Services Committee hosted a hearing on June 11, 2019 at 10:00 am EST: An Examination of State Efforts to Oversee the $1.5 Trillion Student Loan Servicing Market.  The individuals testifying before the committee included:
  • Joanna K. Darcus, Staff Attorney with the National Consumer Law Center
  • Joe Sanders, Student Loan Ombudsman of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office
  • Nicholas Smyth, Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General Consumer Financial Protection Unit
  • Arwen Thoman, Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
  • Scott Buchanan, Executive Director of the Student Loan Alliance
Much of the testimony focused on “forbearance steering” vs. income-driven repayment options and state enforcement actions.  Buchanan noted that the CFPB complaints have decreased and that state efforts related to student loan servicing would create conflicting requirements. Topics covered also included the role of the creditor vs. the servicer vs. the debt collector, the Department of Education, the relationship of internal policies and/or incentives to the profitability of servicers; defining fiduciary duty; underwriting; and the student debt crisis representing 7.8% of U.S. GDP.
  • Representative Andy Barr (R-KY) indicated that Democrats “nationalized” student loans and noted that servicers do not set loan terms, loan interest rates, what school to attend, nor how much student loan debt the borrower should accumulate.
  • Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) referenced “disparate impact” and discrimination in servicing.
  • Representative Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) inquired about data on women and student loan debt.
  • Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) likened the testimony of the Executive Director of the Student Loan Alliance to the testimony of Countrywide representatives.
  • Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) inquired as to the effects to the servicing industry if student loan debts were dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  • Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) referenced the “astronomical” cost of education and the rigorous truth in lending disclosure statements for buying a home and buying a car. Loudermilk’s concerns focused on disclosures to student loan borrowers during the origination process and requirements related to underwriting and/or a student borrowers’ ability to repay loans. 
  • Representative John Rose (R-TN) inquired whether the pending cases against student loan servicers were akin to CFPB regulation by enforcement and argued that former CFPB Director Richard Cordray was focused on self-promotion rather than consumer protection.

Newberry Note:

I didn’t take away a great deal from the House Financial Services Committee Hearing other than there was no consensus on student loan lending or administration.  Some feel that student loan debt is predicted as the next great financial crisis.  Based on my 35+ year career in the financial and banking industry, including the S&L crash, the dot com bubble burst, and the more recent mortgage crisis, it would be prudent for all sides and all viewpoints to be considered, discussed, and debated, in order to reach a consensus.  In the interim, student loan lenders and servicers should ensure that they are striving to meet all federal and state requirements regarding the loans that they make and/or service.  Every consumer complaint received via the CFPB or a State Regulator should be reviewed meticulously for material or systemic issues firstly as a matter of overall fairness, and secondly in preparation for an unknown future.  In my view, these compliance and control efforts will pay dividends in that unknown future.

About the A|P Regulatory Compliance group: Aldridge Pite’s Regulatory Compliance Group is composed of former financial institution regulators.  Attorneys in the group speak on financial services compliance and quality control topics at national conferences, have been recognized or honored by financial industry groups as well as attorney peers, and have authored articles for academic and industry publications. 

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