NEW YORK (MainStreet) The news from Sallie Mae, the student loan originator, servicer and debt collector, is not always good, and it often gets torched by the blowback. To better inform the press and other interested partiesand perhaps stay ahead of the damage control curve when it gets bent out of shape--the firm launched a Website yesterday designed to provide enhanced access to journalists. The Website can also be used by the general public.
"We're pleased to announce the launch of a new, improved newsroom," said spokesperson Nikki Lavoie. "At Sallie Mae, we want to share up-to-the-minute news about our company. However, we don't want to spam you with information that may not interest you or your readers, listeners or viewers."
The new features are expected to allow users to screen unwanted content. Lavoie said that users can obtain "targeted email alerts where you can choose to receive updates based on subject, up-to-the minute access to all company press releases, advanced search functionality allowing you to search for content by keyword and subject matter, and enhanced social media tools including Twitter integration." The Twitter integration allows users to view the Sallie Mae Twitter feed from its newsroom. Hosted by Business Wire, other platforms such as Reddit and Instagram are not yet available.
"If you would like to receive timely, subject-specific information from Sallie Mae, we invite you to sign up today at http://news.SallieMae.com," Lavoie said.
The new functionality may be in anticipation of news that will be coming from federal regulators and law enforcement agenciesnews that may become more frequent and to which Sallie Mae will have to respond. On Monday Sallie Mae announced that the federal government has made Sallie Mae, the Department of Education's biggest contractor, the subject of new inquiries that anticipate possible violations of consumer protection laws.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp are also looking into a number of potential problems that range from payment-processing issues to unfair or deceptive practices, including discriminatory lending. In addition, the federal government is looking at potential and violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a federal law intended to keep the financial heat off of active-duty military personnel.
The FDIC has already informed Sallie Mae that it is getting ready to publicly accuse the student loan giant of violating numerous federal laws. Sallie Mae, the country's largest originator of private student loans which manages over $180 billion worth of debt for some 10 million borrowers, said in its latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it is cooperating fully with government investigations.
While analysts that follow the company have become concerned about its exposure to federal investigations, upper management has expressed little public concern. During an October 17 conference call with investors, Sallie Mae CEO Jack Remondi was asked about a report issued the day before by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which found widespread problems in the way payments were processed by loan servicers like Sallie Mae, including the maximizing of late fees and penalties, which keep borrowers from a quick payoff of their loans. Remondi answered, "I think it's fair to say that our customers are not experiencing the problems that are hinted at or implied in that report."
--Written by John Sandman for MainStreet