Federal regulators in January sued Navient, accusing the biggest U.S. student loan company of making it harder for borrowers to repay loans by giving them bad information, processing payments incorrectly and failing to act on complaints.
Navient reportedly said in response the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suit that “there is no expectation that the servicer will act in the interest of the consumer.”
The CFPB filed the federal lawsuit against Navient Corp. and two subsidiaries seeking restitution for affected borrowers and money penalties.The agency said the company also cheated struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower their payments "through shortcuts and deception."
Bloomberg reported that Navient pointed out that its job is not to help its debt holders, rather it is to get its creditors—in this case the U.S. Departmentof Education—paid. Navient reportedly explained that the department never agreed to offer the customer service the CFPB wants.
David Bergeron, who worked at the Education Department for more than 30 years, told Bloomberg that the comments from Navient “ranks among the most appalling statements I have heard in my career. If that’s all they’re doing, the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would do it better.”
“What this means for the Education Department is that it needs to fire Navient,” Bergeron said. “Damn the costs.”
The company told Bloomberg in a statement that it helps borrowers “navigate loan repayment through proven solutions.”
Navient has repeatedly disputed the allegations, calling the suit a politically motivated "midnight action" two days before the Trump administration takes office.
"We will vigorously defend against these false allegations," the company said in a statement at the time.
Among the allegations: that Navient failed to correctly apply borrowers' payments to their accounts; steered struggling borrowers into paying more than they had to; and hurt the credit of disabled borrowers, including injured veterans, by misreporting to the credit-reporting agencies the status of their loans.
In May 2015, the Justice Department announced that nearly 78,000 members of the U.S. military would be reimbursed under a $60 million consent decree with Navient, because they had been charged excess interest on student loans.
The CFPB said that since July 2011, when it began operations, tens of thousands of borrowers have filed complaints with Navient, the agency and other government agencies about the obstacles they faced in repaying federal and private student loans serviced by Navient.
Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, manages and collects payments on more than $300 billion in federal and private-market student loans, according to the CFPB. The company services loans held by more than 12 million borrowers, including over 6 million loan accounts under its contract with the Education Department.
The New York Times pointed out that Navient does not make the loans.
Republicans have opposed the CFPB, which was created by the financial overhaul law enacted following the 2008 crisis. Some Republican lawmakers want President-elect Donald Trump to fire the agency's director, Richard Cordray, after he assumes office.
The consumer watchdog agency has been enmeshed in partisan politics since its creation in 2010. And in October, a federal appeals court ruled that its structure is unconstitutional because it gives too much power to a single agency director.
The court ruled that the way the CFPB is organized violates the Constitution's separation of powers by limiting the president's ability to remove the director.
Washington state and Illinois filed their own suits against Navient on Wednesday, lodging accusations of unfair and deceptive practices. The company also disputed the state actions.
Student loan debt became a leading issue in the presidential election campaign. Regulators across the government have been scrutinizing Navient and other major companies in the $1.2 trillion student debt market, such as Great Lakes, PHEAA and Nelnet.
Navient, based in Wilmington, Delaware, said the CFPB's suit "improperly seeks to impose penalties on Navient based on new (loan) servicing standards applied retroactively and applied only against one servicer."
Navient said the standards being applied by the CFPB don't track with the Education Department's regulations and that they will harm student loan borrowers and increase defaults.