Today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a proposed order to resolve its allegations that Performance SLC, a student loan debt relief business, and Performance Settlement, a general debt-settlement company, along with their owner and CEO, Daniel Crenshaw, engaged in wrongful fee-charging practices and deceptive telemarketing. Performance SLC unlawfully collected upfront payments from borrowers and did not provide required disclosures.
Performance Settlement settled debts without the required consumer authorization and tricked certain consumers into enrolling into its debt-resolution services.
If entered by the court, the judgment would ban Performance SLC permanently from debt relief services and ban Crenshaw from debt relief services for five years. It would also ban Performance Settlement from certain loan-settlement and lead-generation activities.
The three defendants are based in California. Crenshaw is the CEO and sole owner of Performance SLC and the CEO and majority owner of Performance Settlement.
Performance Settlement is a general debt resolution company that negotiates settlements of consumers’ unsecured debts for a fee of 25% of the amount of the enrolled debt. Performance SLC provided federal student loan debt relief services to consumers by processing and submitting the paperwork required for them to apply for loan consolidation, loan repayment, and loan forgiveness programs offered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Performance SLC ceased operations in 2020.
On November 5, 2020, the CFPB filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the Central District of California against Performance SLC, Performance Settlement, and Crenshaw. The Bureau alleges Performance SLC and Crenshaw charged more than 9,000 consumers with federal student-loan debt approximately $10.5 million in illegal upfront fees.
The Bureau also alleges that Crenshaw and Performance Settlement used deceptive sales tactics to sign certain consumers up for debt-relief services. Specifically, the Bureau alleges that:
- Performance SLC charged illegal upfront fees. Performance SLC provided federal student loan debt relief services to consumers nationwide by processing and submitting the paperwork required for them to apply for loan consolidation, loan repayment, and loan forgiveness programs offered by ED. The U.S. Department of Education does not charge for consumers to apply for or enter these programs. Performance SLC charged an upfront fee ranging from $1,000 to $1,450 before its customers had made a payment under their new loan terms.
- Performance Settlement tricked customers into paying for debt relief services. In calls with some customers, Performance Settlement sales agents told them that the company was “qualifying” and “underwriting” personal loans. After obtaining their financial and personal information, the sales agents would tell the customers that they had been declined the personal loan. This was a ruse designed to steer these individuals into signing up for the company’s debt resolution services. Sales agents would tell customers their best option was to sign up with Performance Settlement for debt resolution services. Around 400 individuals incurred more than $700,000 in collective fees because of Performance Settlement’s deceptive marketing.
Crenshaw both participated directly in the violations and had the authority to control them. As CEO and sole owner of Performance SLC, Crenshaw oversaw all its managers and was involved in creating its policies and procedures, reviewing payment reports, overseeing collections, and receiving consumer complaints deemed credible for elevation.
As majority owner and CEO of Performance Settlement, Crenshaw oversaw the company’s managers, was involved in creating its policies, procedures, and sales scripts, and regularly monitored the company’s sales and customer trust accounts.
Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions violating consumer financial laws, including engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices. In addition to allegedly violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act, the defendants’ actions violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule. The order, if entered by the court, would require:
- Defendants to stop performing debt relief and settlement activities. The order would permanently ban Performance SLC from debt relief services, ban Crenshaw from debt relief services for five years, and permanently enjoin Performance Settlement from obtaining referrals from companies purporting to make or arrange loans.
- Crenshaw to pay a $30,000 fine. Crenshaw would pay a $30,000 penalty to the CFPB, which would be deposited into the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.
The Bureau will work to provide full relief from the Civil Penalty Fund to eligible harmed consumers.
Read today’s proposed order filed in federal district court for the Central District of California.
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