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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Minnesota enacts student loan servicer, debt buyer provisions

Licensing State Issues State Legislation Student Loan Servicer Debt Buyer Student Lending

On June 26, the Minnesota governor signed omnibus bill HF 6, which, among other things, creates a Student Loan Bill of Rights and outlines new provisions for student loan servicers. The act provides new definitions and, subject to exemptions, requires entities servicing student loans in the state to be licensed. The act outlines servicer duties and responsibilities, including those related to responding to borrower communications, applying overpayments and partial payments, handling student loan transfers, providing income-driven repayment program options, and maintaining records. Additionally, servicers are prohibited from (i) misleading borrowers; (ii) engaging in any unfair or deceptive practices or misrepresenting or omitting information related to a borrower’s student loan obligations; (iii) misapplying payments; (iv) knowingly or negligently providing inaccurate information; (v) failing to provide both favorable and unfavorable payment history to consumer reporting agencies; (vi) refusing to communicate with a borrower’s authorized representative; (vii) making false statements or omitting material facts connected “with any application, information, or reports filed with the commissioner or any other federal, state, or local government agency”; (viii) violating any federal, state, or local law; (ix) providing incorrect information regarding the availability of student loan forgiveness; and (x) failing to comply with outlined duties and obligations. Furthermore, the state commissioner has authority to conduct examinations; deny, suspend, or revoke licenses; censure servicers; and impose civil penalties.

Additionally, as part of the omnibus bill, the definition of “collection agency” now includes a “debt buyer,” which is defined as a “business engaged in the purchase of any charged-off account, bill, or other indebtedness for collection purposes, whether the business collects the account, bill, or other indebtedness, hires a third party for collection, or hires an attorney for litigation related to the collection.” The act also defines an “affiliated company” as “a company that: (1) directly or indirectly controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with another company or companies; (2) has the same executive management team or owner that exerts control over the business operations of the company; (3) maintains a uniform network of corporate and compliance policies and procedures; and (4) does not engage in active collection of debts.” The commissioner is also required to allow affiliated companies to operate under a single license and be subject to a single examination provided all of the affiliated company names are listed on the license. Under the act, debt buyers are required to submit license applications no later than January 1, 2022; however, a debt buyer who has filed an application with the commissioner for a collection agency license before January 1, 2022, and has a pending application thereafter, “may continue to operate without a license until the commissioner approves or denies the application.”

The provisions take effect August 1.

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