Law Reports

Consumer Law Report Blasts For-Profit Colleges for Private-Label Student Loans

June 18th, 2017

A new report issued in January by the National Consumer Law Center accuses for-profit colleges of saddling their students with unregulated private-label student loans that force these students into high interest rates, excessive debt, and predatory lending terms that make it difficult for these students to succeed.

The report, entitled “Piling It On: The Growth of Proprietary School Loans and the Consequences for Students,” discusses the boom over the past three years in private student loan programs offered directly by schools rather than by third-party lenders. These institutional loans are offered by so-called “proprietary schools” – for-profit colleges, career schools, and vocational training programs.

Federal vs. Private Education Loans

Most loans for students will be one of two types: government-funded federal student loans, guaranteed and overseen by the U.S. Department of Education; or non-federal private student loans, issued by banks, credit unions, and other private-sector lenders. (Some students may also be able to take advantage of state-funded college loans available in some states for resident students.)

Private student loans, unlike federal undergraduate loans, are credit-based loans, requiring the student borrower to have adequate credit history and income, or else a creditworthy co-signer.

The Beginnings of Proprietary School Loans

Following the financial crisis in 2008 that was spurred, in part, by the lax lending practices that drove the subprime mortgage boom, lenders across all industries instituted more stringent credit requirements for private consumer loans and lines of credit.

Many private student loan companies stopped offering their loans to students who attend for-profit colleges, as these students have historically had weaker credit profiles and higher default rates than students at nonprofit colleges and universities.

These moves made it difficult for proprietary schools to comply with federal financial aid regulations that require colleges and universities to receive at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than federal student aid.

To compensate for the withdrawal of private student loan companies from their campuses, some for-profit colleges began to offer proprietary school loans to their students. Proprietary school loans are essentially private-label student loans, issued and funded by the school itself rather than by a third-party lender.

Proprietary Loans as Default Traps

The NCLC report charges that these proprietary school loans contain predatory lending terms, charge high interest rates and large loan origination fees, and have low underwriting standards, which allow students with poor credit histories and insufficient income to borrow significant sums of money that they’re in little position to be able to repay.

In addition, these proprietary loans often require students to make payments while they’re still in school, and the loans can carry very sensitive default provisions. A single late payment can result in a loan default, along with the student’s expulsion from the academic program. Several for-profit schools will withhold transcripts from borrowers whose proprietary loans are in default, making it nearly impossible for these students to resume their studies elsewhere without starting over.

The NCLC report notes that more than half of proprietary college loans go into default and are never repaid.

Recommendations for Reform

Currently, consumers are afforded few protections from proprietary lenders. Proprietary school loans aren’t subject to the federal oversight that regulates credit products originated by most banks and credit unions.

Moreover, some proprietary schools claim that their private student loans aren’t “loans” at all, but rather a form of “consumer financing” – a distinction, NCLC charges, that’s “presumably an effort to evade disclosure requirements such as the federal Truth in Lending Act” as well as a semantic maneuver meant to skirt state banking regulations.

The authors of the NCLC report make a series of recommendations for reforming proprietary school loans. The recommendations advocate for tough federal oversight of both proprietary and private student loans.

Among the NCLC’s favored reforms are requirements that private student loan companies and proprietary lenders adhere to federal truth-in-lending laws; regulations that prohibit proprietary loans from counting toward a school’s required percentage of non-federal revenue; implementing tracking of private and proprietary loan debt and default rates in the National Student Loan Data System, which currently tracks only federal education loans; and centralized oversight to ensure that for-profit schools can’t disguise their true default rates on their private-label student loans.

Other proposed reforms the NCLC supports include modification of federal bankruptcy laws and expansion of federal college loan debt relief programs.

The NCLC argues for a modification of current bankruptcy laws that would allow student borrowers to discharge onerous student loan debts in a bankruptcy petition without having to meet the current, nearly-impossible-to-satisfy “undue hardship” tests. Amidst more relaxed bankruptcy rules and strengthened non-bankruptcy alternatives, the NCLC maintains, fewer borrowers would find themselves hopelessly mired in student loan debt.

The Whistleblower Protection Law

June 10th, 2017

It was not until 1986 when a law protecting whistleblowers is made. Congress added an anti-retaliation protection to the then existing False Claims Act.

A whistleblower is a person who tells on something he believes is an illegal act. The employees are the most commonly known whistleblower. They tell on their employers which they suspect is doing or committing an illegal act.

Under the Whistleblower Protection Law, the employee should not be discharged, denoted, suspended, threatened or harassed in any form that discriminates the terms and conditions of his employment because of the legal act done by the employee.

The employee may be of aid in many ways possible on the investigation, testimony and the likes. However there are some constraints under the whistleblower protection law.

Reporting illegal acts that are only within the company is a ground for exemption. But still there may be public policies that could protect the employee from retaliation

If it turns out that an employer didn’t actually break a law, the employee is still entitled to whistle blower protection from retaliation, if he reasonably believed that the employer committed an illegal act.

The whistleblower protection law does not cover employer retaliation for complaints about personal loathe. Office politics is not to be used as a basis for filing a complaint against the employer and use the whistleblower protection for personal gain.

In order for the employee to be protected from employer retaliation, he may the have a suspected desecration of any Federal Law. But the supposed violation should have provisions that the law violated will protect whistleblowers.

The Whistleblower Federal Law, unlike the False Claims Act, allows the whistleblower to file a lawsuit in a federal court. The Federal Whistleblower Law does not permit the whistleblower to go directly to the court.

The individuals concerned are pursued administratively. These individuals concerned could file a complaint or charge to retaliate with or without a lawyer to represent them. However if the case is not resolved immediately, the administrative law judge may then preside over the only evidentiary hearing that may take place.

A whistleblower should not attempt to delay an investigation of the possible legal remedy. To maintain this ruling, the retaliation should then be brought to the attention of an appropriate government official within 30 days, else the complaint could not be pursued.

Most states have some sort of statutory or common law “whistleblower” or anti-retaliation laws. Like the federal whistleblower laws, not every lawyer will know about these laws, especially laws outside their own state.

These states and the District of Columbia have recognized a public policy exception to the “employment at will doctrine”: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Some states have explicit statutory protections for whistleblowers. These include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington.

There are also state laws that offer special protections just for their own state or local government employees: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Smart Way To Read Your Credit Report

June 3rd, 2017

You might not realize but finding out the best way to read your credit report can actually save you a lot of time and money – it’s not even that hard to get started, but there are some basics that you need to get your head around all the numbers, abbreviations and unfamiliar terms before reading your credit report.

Before going to a website and getting your credit report you need to be aware that you will need to get more then one create report.

The three main credit report agencies will have a copy of your report but your information will be inconsistent across all three of them – lenders will report your information to maybe only one or two agencies and that information might be incorrect.

Your personal information is no doubt old and out of date as when past lenders reported on your personal information they will only normally report it back to one of the agencies.

You need to get a copy from each one and make sure you do this regularly through out the year, it is recommended that you get a copy from all three first and then get one copy every 4 months – but get one at a time – only by getting your report through this process can you be sure you have the correct information.

The main resign for this is that its voluntary reporting process so the lenders don’ have to by law report your information.

You need to make sure you get a consumer friendly report – don’t ask your friend who may work at a bank to get your copy for you – as you will not be able to read it correctly – you need to get a consumer version.

The Credit report layout Each report is divided into four sections falling under these categories – Identifying Information, Credit History, Public Records and Inquires.

Identifying information is quote obvious – it’;s all the key information about you but make sure you look t this closely – this is the most common place for your report to be incorrect, especially check you social security number.

Other personal information is your address, phone numbers, date of birth, drivers licenses, your employment information and your spouses name.

The following section is your Credit History – this is the most important information that your new lender will look at to assess your credit worthiness required to make an assessment. You might see that individual accounts are called trade lines.

The accounts will include each creditors name and the associated account number (this could be disguised for security reasons) Note that you may have multiple account kinds with the one lender as they will create a new one if you move.

Here you will have information like the date you opened your account, total amount of the loan, if you’ve paid off the account well and one time. It will also state how much money you owe and the credit limit, and ofcause the account status.

Look out for “charge Off.’s these are big black marks that mean that the lender has given up chasing you and has noted that they did not receive the money they were owed.

Public Recored You wan this section left totally pristine white – blank as can be. As having a report here will seriously impact your likelihood of gaining credit. bankruptcies, judgments and tax liens activities are listed here.

Inquiries – The Last Section This the place that will note each inquiry that was made you your account – noted as a soft or hard “call”so if you If you call the credit bureau and ask for a copy it will be on there. It’s great as it’s a very detailed entry record.

“Hard” inquiries are ones you initiate by filling out a credit application – you wan to avoid these as they will have a negative impact on your report if you have too many but the good news is that it also counts two or more “hard” inquiries in the same 14-day period as just one inquiry.

Read your report carefully and report any mistakes to each credit agency so you can get them all fixed and consistent as soon as possible.

I hope you know how to read your Credit Report, so you have a good handle on what your information means.