Shareholders, Students Demand Accountability from Sallie Mae
- Dale Eisman
NEWARK, Del. – Shareholders, student loan holders and veterans called on student lending giant Sallie Mae on Wednesday to disclose all its lobbying expenditures, both direct and indirect.
“Stockholders should be able to verify if Sallie Mae is acting consistently with its mission and publicly stated values,” said Marilyn Carpinteyro, director for state operations for Common Cause and a speaker on behalf of the groups at Sallie Mae’s annual shareholders meeting.
The lobbying disclosure proposal at Sallie Mae is part of a trend of shareholders asking major companies for more information regarding political activity. This year, shareholders have filed 135 proposals asking companies to disclose more about their lobbying activity and political spending. Proposals at Lorillard and Valero Energy received more than 50 percent support from shareholders.
Carpinteyro’s plea, on behalf of a disclosure resolution filed by the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund, comes on heels of revelations that Sallie Mae violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Last month, the Justice Department ordered Sallie Mae to pay $97 million for the violations, which included overcharging, mischarging or discriminating against more than 60,000 members of the armed services.
In a prepared statement, James Gilbert, director of the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council, contended that the violations represented, “a corporate culture that operates in the dark and victimizes borrowers.”
Gilbert added, “Sallie Mae and Navient depend upon trust. They cannot afford to play fast and loose with lobbying spending. They cannot afford to cover up lobbying in Congress and in the state capitals.”
The violations have raised questions about Sallie Mae’s lucrative federal loan servicing contract with the Department of Education (DOE). The agency recently renewed the contract despite the Justice Department’s findings, prompting renewed scrutiny from shareholders and activists who believe the company’s lobbying of the department played a role in the DOE’s leniency.
Jobs With Justice has spearheaded a petition asking DOE Secretary Arne Duncan to drop Sallie Mae/Navient’s contract. Jobs with Justice also organized protests at DOE regional braches around the country to coincide with Sallie Mae’s shareholder meeting today.