Meet 5 Big Lenders Profiting From the $1 Trillion Student Debt Bubble (Hint: You Know Some of Them Already)
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Discover's PAC has spent $2,221,136 over the last three election cycles on candidates, mostly to Republicans.
Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, NelNet was founded in 1978 as the UNIPAC Loan Service Corporation and renamed NelNet in 1996. It reported net income of $165.5 million for three quarters of 2011, and has net student loan assets of $24.6 billion. Its press release states:
“In September 2009, Nelnet began servicing student loans for the Department of Education (Department) under a contract that will increase the company's fee-based revenue as the servicing volume increases. At September 30, 2011, the company was servicing $44.6 billion of loans for 3 million borrowers on behalf of the Department, compared with $21.8 billion of loans for 2.5 million borrowers on September 30, 2010. Revenue from this contract increased to $12.8 million for the third quarter of 2011, up from $8.7 million for the same period a year ago.”
That's $12.8 million in a quarter for servicing federal loans.
The lender has been riddled with controversy; in 2006, Inside Higher Ed reported that NelNet had overcharged the government about a billion dollars. (They settled in 2010 for $55 million to resolve a whistle-blower lawsuit—which also targeted Sallie Mae.) And Higher Ed Watch reported in 2007, in a piece called “ NelNet's Friend with Benefits”:
“Amidst revelations this spring of industry wide kickbacks, improper inducements, and gifts from student loan providers to colleges and universities, Nelnet quickly shut down a Nebraska investigation into its activities by agreeing to provide $1 million to the state in support of a national financial aid awareness campaign.
As we reported two weeks ago, seeking higher office in Nebraska with Nelnet's support can be a lucrative endeavor. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson received almost $65,000 in the 2005-2006 election cycle alone from Nelnet and Union Bank executives and officials. This June, Nelson co-sponsored an amendment that would have sent $4 billion in financial aid earmarked for students instead to for-profit student loan companies like Nelnet. Nelson's amendment lost 61-36.”
NelNet's PAC has spent $398,731 on campaign donations since 2008, and it's spent $2,780,000 on lobbying since 2007; its lobbyists have included Clark Lytle Gelduldig & Cranford, the firm recently outed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC as doing opposition research on the Occupy Wall Street movement.
JPMorgan this year became the country's largest bank by asset size, surpassing the troubled Bank of America, and its private student loan division came into shape when it purchased Collegiate Funding Services in 2006, creating Chase Student Loans.
In 2009, Chase held $11.1 billion in FFELP loans, not a huge amount when you consider its $2.29 trillion in current assets. Still, the giant has been accused of some shady lending practices.
Back in 2007, NPR reported:
“The House Education and Labor Committee says it has evidence that JPMorgan Chase paid five student aid officials to do work for the bank while they were still on their school's payroll. JPMorgan Chase confirmed it did pay school officials to do work related to student loans, but the bank says it doesn't do that kind of thing anymore.
The company says it has also stopped throwing lavish parties for university officials, like the $70,000 cruise in New York Harbor that student aid officers enjoyed in 2005.”
JPMorgan Chase spends lavishly on campaigns and lobbying as well, dropping $5.8 million in just the last year on lobbyists and having given $109,750 to Mitt Romney, $79,150 to Virginia Senator Mark Warner, $55,750 to Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, and $37,439 to Barack Obama.