Student lender Sallie Mae reached a $60 million settlement with the Justice Department to resolve allegations that it charged members of the military excessive interest rates on their student loans, the federal government announced Tuesday.
The deal settles a government lawsuit that asserted the student loan giant violated the rights of service members by imposing interest rates above the 6 percent permitted by federal law and by improperly seeking default judgments against them.
Separately, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. also announced a $30 million settlement arising from allegations that the company maximized consumer late fees.
Sallie Mae formerly operated a call center on Twin Creek Drive in Killeen, but it closed the center in 2010. The facility is now occupied by Aegis Communication Inc.
Judge must OK settlement
The lawsuit was the Justice Department’s first against owners of student loans. The settlement was filed in federal court in Delaware and is awaiting a judge’s approval.
“We are sending a clear message to all lenders and servicers who would deprive our service members of the basic benefits and protections to which they are entitled: this type of conduct is more than just inappropriate; it is inexcusable,” Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference. “And it will not be tolerated.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said all students who have taken out federal loans “should have the peace of mind” that they will be treated fairly.
He said he has requested a review into whether Sallie Mae violated its contact with the Education Department through the overcharging practices. Federal officials estimate about 60,000 service members will be eligible for compensation as part of the settlement.