Rutledge Announces Loan Forgiveness Settlement with For-Profit Education CompanyFri, Jan 4, 2019
Says, ‘Arkansas students will receive $1.8 million in debt relief’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced the for-profit education company, Career Education Corp. (CEC) has agreed to change its recruiting and enrollment practices and forgo collecting more than $493.7 million in debts owed by 179,529 students nationally. In the settlement with Arkansas and 48 other attorneys general, affected Arkansas students will receive $1.8 million in debt relief through student loan forgiveness, and the State of Arkansas will receive a payment of $75,000.
“CEC took advantage of Arkansans who were expanding their opportunities through education and weighed them down with a huge financial burden,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “These Arkansans will receive monetary relief from overbearing debt which will allow them to pursue their dreams.”
The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance caps a five-year investigation. CEC agreed to forgo any and all efforts to collect amounts owed by former students living in the states participating in the agreement.
CEC is based in Schaumburg, Ill., and currently offers primarily online courses through American InterContinental University and Colorado Technical University. CEC has closed or phased out many of its schools over the past 10 years. Its brands have included Briarcliffe College, Brooks Institute, Brown College, Harrington College of Design, International Academy of Design & Technology, Le Cordon Bleu, Missouri College and Sanford-Brown.
A group of attorneys general launched an investigation into CEC in January 2014 after receiving several complaints from students and a critical report on for-profit education by the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The attorneys general alleged that CEC pressured its employees to enroll students and engaged in unfair and deceptive practices. These practices included making misleading statements or failing to disclose information to prospective students on total costs, transferability of credits, program offerings, job placement rates, and other topics. As a result, some students could not obtain professional licensure and incurred debts that they could neither repay nor discharge. CEC denied the allegations of the attorneys general but agreed to resolve the claims through this multi-state settlement.
Under the agreement, CEC must:
- Make no misrepresentations concerning accreditation, selectivity, graduation rates, placement rates, transferability of credit, financial aid, veterans’ benefits, or licensure requirements.
- Not enroll students in programs that do not lead to state licensure when required for employment, or that due to their lack of accreditation, will not prepare graduates for jobs in their field. For certain programs that will prepare graduates for some but not all jobs, CEC will be required to disclose such to incoming students.
- Provide a single-page disclosure to each student that includes: a) anticipated total direct cost; b) median debt for completers; c) programmatic cohort default rate; d) program completion rate; c) notice concerning transferability of credits; d) median earnings for completers; and e) the job placement rate.
- Require students before enrolling to complete an Electronic Financial Impact Platform Disclosure, which provides specific information about debt burden and expected post-graduation income. CEC is working with the states to develop this platform.
- Not engage in deceptive or abusive recruiting practices and record online chats and telephone calls with prospective students. CEC shall analyze these recordings to ensure compliance. CEC shall not contact students who indicate that they no longer wish to be contacted.
- Require incoming undergraduate students with fewer than 24 credits to complete an orientation program before their first class that covers study skills, organization, literacy, financial skills, and computer competency. During the orientation period, students may withdraw at no cost.
- Establish a risk-free trial period. All undergraduates who enter an online CEC program with fewer than 24 online credits shall be permitted to withdraw within 21 days of the beginning of the term without incurring any cost. All undergraduates who enter an on-ground CEC program shall be permitted to withdraw within seven days of the first day of class without incurring any cost.
CEC has agreed to forgo collection of debts owed to it by students who either attended a CEC institution that closed before Jan. 1, 2019, or whose final day of attendance at AIU or CTU occurred on or before Dec. 31, 2013.
Former students with debt relief eligibility questions can contact CEC or call 1-844-783-8629.
In addition to Arkansas, the CEC investigation was led by Iowa, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. The agreement also covers the District of Columbia and the following states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Attorney General Rutledge Joins $575 Million Settlement with Wells FargoFri, Dec 28, 2018
Says, ‘Wells Fargo is being held accountable for the harm caused to consumers by its improper business practices’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that Wells Fargo Bank N.A. will pay $575 million to resolve claims that the bank violated state consumer-protection laws. The settlement is the result of multiple investigations by all 50 states and the District of Columbia of allegations that Wells Fargo was engaging in a number of unfair and deceptive business practices. The State of Arkansas will receive $1,298,019.
“We must be able to trust banks to conduct business honestly,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Wells Fargo betrayed that trust for thousands of consumers, including many Arkansans. Wells Fargo is being held accountable for the harm caused to consumers by its improper business practices.”
The settlement resolves claims the bank violated state consumer protection laws by opening millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolling customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, improperly referring customers for enrollment in third-party renters and life insurance policies, improperly charging auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, failing to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and incorrectly charging customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees.
Wells Fargo identified more than 3.5 million accounts where customer accounts were opened, funds were transferred, credit card applications were filed and debit cards were issued without the customers’ knowledge or consent. The bank has also identified 528,000 online bill pay enrollments nationwide that may have resulted from improper sales practices at the bank. In addition, Wells Fargo improperly submitted more than 6,500 renters insurance or simplified term life insurance policy applications and payments from customer accounts without the customers’ knowledge or consent.
Through this settlement, Wells Fargo will also create a consumer redress review program which consumers who have not been made whole through other restitution programs already in place can seek review of their inquiries or complaints by a bank escalation team for possible relief. To date, this settlement represents the most significant engagement involving a national bank by state attorneys general acting without a federal law enforcement partner.
The states alleged that Wells Fargo imposed aggressive and unrealistic sales goals on bank employees and implemented an incentive compensation program where employees could qualify for credit by selling certain products to customers. The states further alleged that the bank's sales goals and the incentive compensation program created an impetus for employees to engage in improper sales practices in order to satisfy such sales goals and earn financial rewards. Those sales goals became increasingly harder to achieve over time, the states alleged, and employees who failed to meet them faced potential termination and career-hindering criticism from their supervisors.
The states also alleged that Wells Fargo improperly charged premiums, interest, and fees for force-placed collateral protection insurance to more than two million auto financing customers, despite evidence that the customers’ regular auto insurance policy was in effect, and despite numerous customer complaints about such unnecessary placements. Wells Fargo has agreed to provide remediation of more than $385 million to approximately 850,000 auto finance customers. The remediation will include payments to over 51,000 customers whose cars were repossessed.
Additionally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo failed to ensure that customers received proper refunds of unearned portions of optional Guaranteed Asset/Auto Protection (GAP) products sold as part of motor vehicle financing agreements. As a result, the bank has agreed to provide refunds totaling more than $37 million to certain auto finance customers.
Finally, the states alleged that Wells Fargo improperly charged residential mortgage loan consumers for rate lock extension fees even when the delay was caused by Wells Fargo, a practice contrary to the bank’s policy. Wells Fargo has identified and contacted affected consumers and has refunded or agreed to refund over $100 million of such fees.
Wells Fargo has previously entered consent orders with federal authorities – including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) – related to its alleged conduct. Wells Fargo has committed to or already provided restitution to consumers in excess of $600 million through its agreements with the OCC and CFPB as well as through settlement of a related consumer class-action lawsuit and will pay over $1 billion in civil penalties to the federal government. Additionally, under an order from the Federal Reserve, the bank is required to strengthen its corporate governance and controls, and is currently restricted from exceeding its total asset size.
As part of its settlement with the states, Wells Fargo has agreed to implement, within 60 days, a program through which consumers who believe they were affected by the bank's conduct, but fell outside the prior restitution programs, can contact Wells Fargo to be reviewed for potential redress. Wells Fargo will create and maintain a website for consumers to use to access the program and will provide periodic reports to the states about ongoing restitution efforts.
More information on the redress review program, including Wells Fargo escalation phone numbers and the Wells Fargo dedicated website address for the program will be available on or before February 26, 2019.
Attorney General Reaches Almost 90,000 Arkansans in First Four YearsFri, Dec 28, 2018
Says, ‘I have made it a priority to increase the accessibility of the office’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is closing out her first term as the state’s chief legal officer with the announcement she has reached almost 90,000 Arkansans in person since taking office in January 2015, including over 21,000 in 2018.
“As Attorney General, I have made it a priority to increase the accessibility of the office through roundtable meetings, mobile office hours and educational programs for everyone age 9 to 90,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Each year I personally host a meeting in each of our 75 counties to hear directly from Arkansans in their hometowns about issues they are facing and discussing real solutions, and in 2015, I began holding office hours in every county yearly to allow consumers to have face-to-face conversations to file complaints, receive information to avoid scams and dispose of unneeded prescription medications. Too many in our State are not aware of the scope of this office and services provided, and I want to do the fighting for them when they need help.”
Rutledge had hosted 306 roundtable meetings and 313 mobile offices to meet face-to-face with thousands of Arkansans. In 2016, Rutledge began partnering with local law enforcement to collect unused and expired prescription medications at mobile offices.
Rutledge also hosts numerous outreach and training events, including the annual Law Enforcement Summit, Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit and the Never Forgotten – Arkansas Takes Action event to recognize Arkansas’s missing persons. In addition to annual events, the Attorney General’s Office increased outreach efforts by hosting webcasts on topics including avoiding common scams, the Freedom of Information Act and teen dating violence prevention. During her first four-year term, Rutledge hosted 68 large training events and the Attorney General’s staff has presented to 1,291 groups.
Rutledge Announces Izard County Man Sentenced to 60 Years for Possessing Child PornographyFri, Dec 21, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that an Izard County man has been sentenced to 60 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction on child pornography charges.
James Hix, 59, of Mount Pleasant, pleaded guilty to six counts of possessing, distributing or viewing of matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child.
“Hix exploited innocent children being victimized in the sickening images he had and shared from his computer,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “We work closely with other law enforcement agencies to identify these criminals and remove them from the internet and our neighborhoods. Predators will be held accountable in Arkansas.”
In April 2018, Hix was arrested by the Attorney General’s office Cyber Crimes Unit where special agents seized multiple electronic devices from his residence. Deputy Attorney General Will Jones from the Attorney General’s office was appointed Special Deputy Prosecutor in the case by the 16th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Holly Meyer.
Rutledge Announces January Mobile Office ScheduleThu, Dec 20, 2018
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced mobile office locations for January 2019.
Attorney General Rutledge created this initiative during her first year in office to increase office accessibility for all Arkansans, particularly to those who live outside the capital city. Office hours were held in all 75 counties each year during her first term, assisting 3,300 Arkansans.
Rutledge believes face-to-face conversations are the best way to truly hear from Arkansans. The Attorney General Mobile Offices assist constituents with consumer related issues by filing consumer complaints against scam artists as well as answering questions about the office and the other services it offers to constituents.
Rutledge continues her partnerships with the Cooperative Extension Service and local law enforcement across Arkansas. Law enforcement officials will be on hand to collect unused and expired prescription medications to ensure they are secured and properly disposed. Arkansans are encouraged to bring their old, unused or expired prescription medications to an upcoming mobile office. During Rutledge’s first term, over 618 pounds of medications were collected at her mobile offices.
For more information about services provided by the Attorney General’s office, visit ArkansasAG.gov or call (501) 682-2007. Rutledge can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/AGLeslieRutledge and on Twitter at twitter.com/AGRutledge.
The upcoming mobile office schedule is below:
Tuesday, Jan. 8
9:30 to 11:00 a.m.
Grant County Cooperative Extension Service
202 W. Pine Street
Sheridan, AR 72150
Thursday, Jan. 10
10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Perryville Senior Adult Center
107 North Magnolia Street
Perryville, AR 72126
Thursday, Jan. 17
10:30 a.m. to noon
TC Vaughan Senior Adult Center
706 N. Division Street
Morrilton, AR 72110
Tuesday, Jan. 22
noon to 1:30 p.m.
Lightle Senior Center
2200 E. Moore Ave.
Searcy, AR 72143
Thursday, Jan. 24
10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Hamburg Senior Citizens Center
1406 N. Main Street
Hamburg, AR 71646
Tuesday, Jan. 29
10:00 to 11:30 a.m.
Des Arc Senior Center
1103 Main Street
Des Arc, AR 72040
Thursday, Jan. 31
11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Arkadelphia Senior Adult Activity Center
1305 N. 10th Street
Arkadelphia, AR 71923
Rutledge Steps Up Fight Against RobocallsMon, Dec 17, 2018
Says, ‘Arkansans are frustrated and have asked me to eliminate these unwanted and unlawful calls’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she is leading a bipartisan coalition of 40 attorneys general to expand on her efforts to put an end to unyielding and potentially harmful robocalls. Participating states have been reviewing available technology that is currently under consideration by major telecom companies to assist in combating these illegal robocalls.
“As I travel across Arkansas, I consistently hear how Arkansans are troubled by the abusive and pesky robocalls by scammers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans are frustrated and have asked me to eliminate these unwanted and unlawful calls, which commonly lead to people being scammed out of thousands of dollars. This coalition is another step in the right direction as we work with telecom companies to end these types of calls.”
Since it was formed, the multi-state group has had in-depth meetings with several major telecom companies. These meetings have led to greater information sharing about the technological capabilities currently in existence or in development to fight these calls.
Attorney General Rutledge and her colleagues are working to:
- Develop a detailed understanding of what is technologically feasible to minimize unwanted robocalls and illegal telemarking
- Engage the major telecom companies to encourage them to expedite the best possible solutions for consumers
- Determine whether states should make further recommendations to the FCC
In addition to Arkansas, the group, led by Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Vermont, also includes Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.