In May 2011, a U.S. Representative from Tennessee introduced a bill called the Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2011. The bill proposes to make private student loans generally dischargeable in bankruptcy (like they were before the revisions in 2005) as a way of addressing the mounting student debt crisis. The bill proposes to strike subpart B of Section 523(a)(8) of the Bankruptcy Code which makes general education-purpose loans nondischargeable.
New York’s attorney general is accusing some of the nation’s largest banks of deceit and fraud in using an electronic mortgage registry that he claims puts homeowners at a disadvantage in foreclosures. He claims the banks submitted court documents containing false and misleading information that appeared to provide the authority for foreclosures when there was none. Further, the Mortgage Electronis Registration System (MERS) has eliminated homeowners’ ability to track property transfers through traditional public records and the stored data in the system is plagued by inaccuracies.
With student loan debt now topping U.S. credit card debt and few or no options available for distressed borrowers, America faces the very real possibility of another major economic threat on a par with the devastating home mortgage crisis. As bankruptcy attorneys, we have seen an increase in the last three-four years of potential bankruptcy clients with student loan debt.
More than 40 states have signed on to a draft settlement with the nation’s largest banks aimed at helping homeowners struggling with loans bigger than the value of their homes. However, several states including California, New York, Nevada, Florida, and Delaware remain undecided. Attorneys general from these states have issues with the deal but are still talking with negotiators. Some feel the settlement is not enough for their state and others are worried that if they agree to the deal it would hinder their own investigations into the mortgage crisis.
The Obama administration is expanding eligibility for its Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) to borrowers with higher debt loads and tripling the incentives it pays banks that reduce principal on loans. It will also offer incentives to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce principal on loans, which it had previously only offered to private lenders and banks. The program was initially set to expire at the end of this year but was extended to December 2013.