Massachusetts AG settles with federal loan servicer to resolve allegations of unfair and deceptive practices
On February 10, the Massachusetts attorney general announced a “first-of-its-kind” settlement with one of the nation’s largest federal student loan servicers, resolving allegations that the servicer engaged in unfair and deceptive practices by overcharging borrowers and improperly processing claims for public service loan forgiveness. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the AG filed a complaint in 2017 claiming the servicer, among other things, (i) failed to timely and properly process applications for income driven repayment (IDR) plans, thereby denying borrowers the opportunity to make qualifying payments under forgiveness programs; (ii) failed to properly count qualifying payments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; (iii) failed to properly process certification forms in connection with the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant program, causing grants to be converted into loans; and (iv) collected amounts not legitimately due and owing and failing to refund them.
Under the terms of the settlement, more than 200,000 Massachusetts borrowers will be able to submit a claim for a detailed audit. Should the audit identify a servicing error or misrepresentation, the servicer must “restore borrowers to their rightful statuses” under the federal loan forgiveness programs; however, if corrections cannot be made, the servicer is required to provide monetary relief to borrowers. The servicer is also is required to repay teachers whose grants were converted into loans erroneously and have not already received relief from the Department of Education, and make corrections for borrowers who experienced IDR application processing delays resulting in missed opportunities for making qualifying payments towards loan forgiveness. Further, the servicer must implement an enhanced quality assurance review practice to identify servicing errors, affected borrowers, as well as root causes for the errors.