- Minnesota AG Keith Ellison opened investigations into 52 student-debt relief companies.
- He said those companies are suspected of "falsely promising" loan forgiveness to borrowers for fees.
- Should the investigations find wrongdoing, impacted borrowers could receive relief.
Dozens of companies who tout student-debt relief are facing a crackdown.
Last week, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office has opened investigations into 52 student-debt relief companies "suspected of violating Minnesota law," according to the press release. The companies — many of which are based in California — offered their services to Minnesota borrowers and are suspected of "misrepresenting their fees and services and falsely promising student-loan forgiveness, which only the federal government can offer."
"Minnesotans just want to be able to afford their lives, and the cost of student loans that too many borrowers have to take out is already too high," Ellison said in a statement. "The fact that fraudsters prey on borrowers by charging exorbitant fees and making promises they can't deliver on is offensive. We've held companies like this accountable before and we're doing it again."
A full list of the companies being investigated can be found here. The letters Ellison's office sent each of the 52 companies asked them to provide information within ten days of receiving the letter — including proof of their registration to do business in Minnesota, a description of all products relating to student loans, and the total amount of fees paid by each consumer for the debt relief services.
If the investigations uncover wrongdoing, borrowers who paid those companies could receive refunds. Ellison's previous enforcement actions over the student-loan industry have led to the shutdown of some of those companies, along with millions of dollars returned to borrowers.
Minnesota's efforts are part of a broader federal effort to crack down on predatory behavior as borrowers transition back into repayment. The student-loan payment pause ended on September 1 when interest began accruing again on borrowers' balances, and the first bill will become due next month. President Joe Biden's Education Department has warned borrowers to be weary of misleading behavior, particularly because any assistance with repayment or debt relief that comes directly from the federal government is free.
Most recently, the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department announced last month that over 22,000 borrowers will receive $9 million in refunds after a company was found to be charging up to $800 in "illegal up-front fees" for debt relief services. The FTC had previously halted operations of two different debt relief companies that scammed borrowers out of $8.8 million under the guise of debt relief.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently warned borrowers to keep an eye out for any potentially predatory behavior they notice from their federal servicer or outside companies and encouraged them to submit complaints to the agency regarding any suspected wrongdoing.
"Unfortunately, the CFPB has found in the past that some student loan servicers have made it harder for borrowers to access lower payments and loan cancellation programs," the agency's September blog said. "Our complaint monitoring, enforcement and supervision efforts have uncovered red tape, errors, delays, and even illegal practices that left borrowers paying more than they should."