Attorney General Hector Balderas
From the Office of the Attorney General:
…Settlement includes $1.7 billion in debt cancellation and $95 million in restitution; New Mexico will receive more than $10.2 million as a result of the settlement
ALBUQUERQUE – Attorney General Hector Balderas announced today that Navient, known as one of the nation’s largest student loan servicers, will provide relief totaling $1.85 billion to resolve allegations of widespread unfair and deceptive student loan servicing practices and abuses in originating predatory student loans.
This settlement, joined by a coalition of 39 attorneys general, resolves claims that since 2009, despite representing that it would help borrowers find the best repayment options for them, Navient steered struggling student loan borrowers into costly long-term forbearances instead of counseling them about the benefits of more affordable income-driven repayment plans.
“New Mexicans seeking the American Dream through higher education have been trapped in a cycle of debt and fallen prey to unfair practices for far too long,” Balderas said. “I will continue to crack down on predatory student loan companies and fight for increased borrower protections.”
Balderas filed the settlement as a proposed Consent Judgment and Complaint today in the First Judicial District Court. The settlement will require court approval.
According to the attorneys general, the interest that accrued because of Navient’s forbearance steering practices was added to the borrowers’ loan balances, pushing borrowers further in debt.
Navient also allegedly originated predatory subprime private loans to students attending for-profit schools and colleges with low graduation rates, even though it knew that a very high percentage of such borrowers would be unable to repay the loans. Navient allegedly made these risky subprime loans as “an inducement to get schools to use Navient as a preferred lender” for highly-profitable federal and “prime” private loans, without regard for borrowers and their families, many of whom were unknowingly ensnared in debts they could never repay.
Under the terms of the settlement, Navient will cancel the remaining balance on more than $1.7 billion in subprime private student loan balances owed by more than 66,000 borrowers nationwide. In addition, Navient will pay a total of $95 million in restitution payments of about $260 each will be distributed to approximately 350,000 federal loan borrowers who were placed in certain types of long-term forbearances.
As part of the settlement, New Mexico will receive a total of $381,995 in restitution payments for more than 1,400 federal loan borrowers. Additionally, New Mexico borrowers will receive a total of $9,803,555 million in private loan debt cancellation.
The settlement further includes conduct reforms that require Navient to explain the benefits of income-driven repayment plans to borrowers, to offer to estimate income-driven payment amounts before placing borrowers into optional forbearances, to train specialists who will advise distressed borrowers concerning alternative repayment options, and to counsel public service workers concerning Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and related programs.
The conduct reforms imposed by the settlement include prohibitions on compensating customer service agents in a manner that incentivizes them to minimize time spent counseling borrowers.
The settlement also requires Navient to notify borrowers about the U.S. Department of Education’s recently announced PSLF limited waiver opportunity, which temporarily offers millions of qualifying public service workers the chance to have previously non qualifying repayment periods counted toward loan forgiveness—provided that they consolidate into the Direct Loan Program and file employment certifications by Oct. 31, 2022.
As a result of today’s settlement, borrowers receiving private loan debt cancellation will receive a notice from Navient by July 2022, along with refunds of any payments made on the canceled private loans after June 30, 2021. Federal loan borrowers who are eligible for a restitution payment of approximately $260 will receive a postcard in the mail from the settlement administrator later this spring.
Federal loan borrowers who qualify for relief under this settlement do not need to take any action except update or create their studentaid.gov account to ensure that the U.S. Department of Education has their current address. For more information, visit www.NavientAGSettlement.com.
Until recently, Navient had a contract to service federal student loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education, including a large portfolio of loans made under the Direct Loan Program and a smaller portfolio of loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program.
Oct. 20, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education announced the transfer of this contract from Navient to Aidvantage, a division of Maximus Federal Services, Inc. However, Navient will continue to service federal student loans made under the FFEL Program that are owned by private lenders, as well as non-federal private student loans.
Today’s settlement was led by Pennsylvania, Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts, and California, and was joined by attorneys general in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
See a copy of the complaint here.