District Court approves new settlement in student debt-relief action
On June 15, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California entered a stipulated final judgment and order against one of the defendants in an action brought by the CFPB, the Minnesota and North Carolina attorneys general, and the Los Angeles City Attorney in 2019, which alleged a student loan debt relief operation deceived thousands of student-loan borrowers and charged more than $71 million in unlawful advance fees. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the complaint alleged that the defendants violated the Consumer Financial Protection Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and various state laws by charging and collecting improper advance fees from student loan borrowers prior to providing assistance and receiving payments on the adjusted loans. In addition, the complaint asserts the defendants engaged in deceptive practices by misrepresenting (i) the purpose and application of fees they charged; (ii) their ability to obtain loan forgiveness; and (iii) their ability to actually lower borrowers’ monthly payments.
The finalized settlement issued against the relief defendant—who acted in an individual capacity and also as trustee of a trust, and who neither admits nor denies the allegations—requires the liquidation of certain assets up to but not exceeding $3 million as monetary relief to go to the CFPB and the People of the State of California. If the liquidation value of the asset is less than $3 million, the relief defendant “will be additionally liable for the difference between the liquidation value of the [asset] and $3,000,000, up to but not exceeding $500,000.” The relief defendant is also liable to all plaintiffs for $88,381.80. In addition, the relief defendant must comply with certain reporting and recordkeeping requirements and fully cooperate with the plaintiffs.
The court previously entered final judgments against four of the defendants, as well as a default judgment and order against two other defendants (covered by InfoBytes here and here). Orders have yet to be entered against the remaining defendants.