On December 23, the FDIC announced separate settlements with a Connecticut-based financial aid company and an affiliated Utah-based bank for alleged deceptive practices in violation of the FTC Act. Separately, the Federal Reserve announced a settlement solely with the Connecticut-based company for allegedly violating of the FTC Act by employing deceptive practices. The company provides financial aid disbursements to higher education institutions for its students. According to the agencies, the company omitted material facts about its financial aid disbursement business, such as: (i) details about alternative disbursement methods available to students; (ii) a full and complete fee schedule; and (iii) information regarding the locations of fee-free ATMs. In addition, the agencies alleged that the company prominently displayed school logos, suggesting to students that schools had endorsed its refund product.
The FDIC’s orders against the company and the bank require each to pay a civil money penalty of $2.23 million and $1.75 million, respectively. In addition, the company and the bank together will pay approximately $31 million in restitution to roughly 900,000 consumers. Under the terms of the Federal Reserve’s order, the company will: (i) pay approximately $24 million in restitution to an estimated 570,000 consumers; (ii) pay a civil money penalty of more than $2 million; (iii) adopt a consumer compliance risk-management program; and (iv) refrain from future violations of section 5 of the FTC Act.