Student Loan Assistance Association Presents Pence Pal PAC

BuzzFeed News posted an interesting take on the student loan assistance conference held in Las Vegas recently.

Here is an excerpt and this is the link to the full article.

Molly Hensley-Clancy from BuzzFeed News reported:

“One of Vice President Mike Pence’s closest allies advised a cadre of student debt relief companies — some of which are facing an unprecedented nationwide crackdown for preying on vulnerable borrowers — on how to lobby Washington and fend off regulators.

Marty Obst, a longtime adviser to Pence and operative closely aligned with Trump’s outside political operation, was a marquee speaker at an industry conference last week, where student debt relief companies gathered in Las Vegas to learn how to gird themselves against investigations, defend class-action lawsuits, and reach millennials through mass text-messaging campaigns, according to the conference agenda.

Introduced to the crowd as “Mike Pence’s best friend,” Obst told the group that he had personally spoken to legislators about the industry and what he characterized as the “good work” that debt relief companies were doing for students, according to two people who attended the panel.

He advised the companies to set up a political action committee, an arm that would allow them to build relationships with legislators, funneling money into efforts to ease the regulatory crackdown, and lift roadblocks set up by the Education Department. Though he didn’t promise results from the PAC, Obst touted his own connections to Pence, those attendees said.”

I have heard recent statements that the student loan assistance industry is counting on the efforts of some Political Action Committee to change the view of lawmakers regarding the industry.

The article from BuzzFeed seems to confirm those statements.

Best of luck to the student loan companies who hope to alter regulations and make it easier for them to conduct business. However, the big hurdle I’m not sure any PAC can overcome are fake and/or deceptive sales messages and statements as determined by courts and lawmakers.

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The article said, “The Association for Student Loan Relief’s president, Robby Birnbaum, said at the conference that the industry had been tainted by a few bad actors and that the vast majority of debt relief companies act in good faith on behalf of students, according to the two people who were in attendance.”

The big question seems to be how the Association for Student Loan Relief can drive out those bad actors and stand tall for the smaller good guy companies to survive, regardless of an expensive effort to push PAC influence to relax regulations that only seem to give those “bad actors” a bigger sandbox to play in.

The FTC recently took action against a number of student loan assistance companies.

The article reports, “Birnbaum, an attorney who represented a fraudulent debt relief firm shut down by the CFPB, gave a presentation on compliance that repeatedly mocked the FTC, according to two people at the speech.” Ouch. Especially since speculation has it that at least two of the people in attendance were from federal agencies.

There is never a dull moment in the debt relief world.

I do have to give a hat tip to the Association for Student Loan Relief (AFSLR) who was/is sending consumers to the site to complain about their student loan assistance company. AFSLR has been very helpful in my efforts to identify problem companies and I applaud them for that.

Steve Rhode
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