Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown and Patty Murray have sent a letter to Robert Cameron, the CFPB’s new Private Education Loan Ombudsman, in which they set forth their expectations for the Ombudsman’s Office.  The Bureau announced Mr. Cameron’s appointment as Ombudsman in August 2019.  He replaced Seth Frotman, who has been a vocal critic of the Bureau since his departure from the Bureau in August 2018.  The letter follows up on a September 18 meeting between Mr. Cameron and members of the Senators’ staffs.

In their letter, the Senators set forth their expectations that the Ombudsman’s Office:

  • Serve as an advocate for student loan borrowers by engaging in activities such as
    • Participating in Bureau policymaking
    • Gathering evidence for and referring cases to CFPB supervision and enforcement staff, other federal law enforcement officials and regulators, and state attorneys general or state banking regulators
    • Recommending legislative changes to the CFPB Director, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Education, and Congress
    • Providing direct assistance to consumers
    • Requesting data from student loan industry participants and analyzing such data
    • Monitoring the marketplace for risks to young consumers
  • Continue oversight of private and federal student loans
  • Ensure adequate staffing of the Ombudsman’s Office
  • Carry out oversight and monitoring duties “even if the [ED] attempts to interfere with the Bureau’s jurisdiction”
  • Reestablish the MOU between the Ombudsman’s Office and the ED as soon as possible (ED terminated the MOU effective October 1, 2017.)
  • Promptly resume examinations of federal student loan servicers

The Senators’ letter references an April 2019 letter sent by the Bureau to Senator Brown in which the Bureau stated that since December 2017, student loan servicers had declined, based on ED direction, to produce information requested by the Bureau’s examiners in connection with exams related to Direct Loans and Federal Family Loan Program loans held by the ED.  (The direction required servicers to obtain the ED’s permission to produce the information requested by the Bureau’s examiners.)  In their letter, the Senators ask Mr. Cameron to respond to questions regarding the Bureau’s supervisory examinations related to Direct Loans and FFLEP since December 2017 (and since January 2017 regarding Public Student Loan Forgiveness) and for information on staffing.