2nd CFPB Enforcement Action This Week Involving Debt Collection, Now Against Discover Bank

On the heels of yesterday’s enforcement action against Citibank and its subsidiary Department Stores National Bank, today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) took action against Discover Bank and its affiliates for illegal private student loan servicing practices. The CFPB found that Discover overstated the minimum amounts due on billing statements and denied consumers information they needed to obtain federal income tax benefits. The company also engaged in illegal debt collection tactics, including calling consumers early in the morning and late at night. The CFPB’s order requires Discover to refund $16 million to consumers, pay a $2.5 million penalty, and improve its billing, student loan interest reporting, and collection practices.

Discover Bank is an Illinois-based depository institution. Its student loan affiliates – The Student Loan Corporation and Discover Products, Inc. – are also charged in today’s action. Beginning in 2010, Discover expanded its private student loan portfolio by acquiring more than 800,000 accounts from Citibank. As a loan servicer, Discover is responsible for providing basic services to borrowers, including accurate periodic account statements, supplying year-end tax information, and contacting borrowers regarding overdue amounts.

Student loans make up the nation’s second largest consumer debt market. The market has grown rapidly in the last decade. Today there are more than 40 million federal and private student loan borrowers and collectively these consumers owe more than $1.2 trillion. The market is now facing an increasing number of borrowers who are struggling to stay current on their loans. Earlier this year, the Bureau revealed that more than 8 million borrowers were in default on more than $110 billion in student loans, a problem that may be driven by breakdowns in student loan servicing. While private student loans are a small portion of the overall market, they are generally used by borrowers with high levels of debt who also have federal loans.

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