(a) Fiscal requirements -
(1) Reserve fund assets. A guaranty agency shall establish and maintain a reserve fund to be used solely for its activities as a guaranty agency under the FFEL Program (“guaranty activities”). The guaranty agency shall credit to the reserve fund -
(i) The total amount of insurance premiums and Federal default fees collected;
(ii) Funds received from a State for the agency's guaranty activities, including matching funds under section 422(a) of the Act;
(iii) Federal advances obtained under sections 422(a) and (c) of the Act;
(iv) Federal payments for default, bankruptcy, death, disability, closed schools, and false certification claims;
(v) Supplemental preclaims assistance payments;
(vi) Transitional support payments received under section 458(a) of the Act;
(vii) Funds collected by the guaranty agency on FFEL Program loans on which a claim has been paid;
(viii) Investment earnings on the reserve fund; and
(ix) Other funds received by the guaranty agency from any source for the agency's guaranty activities.
(2) Uses of reserve fund assets. A guaranty agency may use the assets of the reserve fund established under paragraph (a)(1) of this section to pay only -
(i) Insurance claims;
(ii) Costs that are reasonable, as defined under § 682.410(a)(11)(iii), and that are ordinary and necessary for the agency to fulfill its responsibilities under the HEA, including costs of collecting loans, providing default aversion assistance, monitoring enrollment and repayment status, and carrying out any other guaranty activities. Those costs must be -
(A) Allocable to the FFEL Program;
(B) Not higher than the agency would incur under established policies, regulations, and procedures that apply to any comparable non-Federal activities of the guaranty agency;
(C) Not included as a cost or used to meet cost sharing or matching requirements of any other federally supported activity, except as specifically provided by Federal law;
(D) Net of all applicable credits; and
(E) Documented in accordance with applicable legal and accounting standards;
(iii) The Secretary's equitable share of collections;
(iv) Federal advances and other funds owed to the Secretary;
(v) Reinsurance fees;
(vi) Insurance premiums and Federal default fees related to cancelled loans;
(vii) Borrower refunds, including those arising out of student or other borrower claims and defenses;
(A) The repayment, on or after December 29, 1993, of amounts credited under paragraphs (a)(1)(ii) or (a)(1)(ix) of this section, if the agency provides the Secretary 30 days prior notice of the repayment and demonstrates that -
(1) These amounts were originally received by the agency under appropriate contemporaneous documentation specifying that receipt was on a temporary basis only;
(2) The objective for which these amounts were originally received by the agency has been fully achieved; and
(3) Repayment of these amounts would not cause the agency to fail to comply with the minimum reserve levels provided by paragraph (a)(10) of this section, except that the Secretary may, for good cause, provide written permission for a payment that meets the other requirements of this paragraph (a)(2)(ix)(A).
(1) These amounts were originally received by the agency under appropriate contemporaneous documentation that receipt was on a temporary basis only; and
(2) The objective for which these amounts were originally received by the agency has been fully achieved.
(ix) Any other costs or payments ordinary and necessary to perform functions directly related to the agency's responsibilities under the HEA and for their proper and efficient administration;
(x) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, any other payment that was allowed by law or regulation at the time it was made, if the agency acted in good faith when it made the payment or the agency would otherwise be unfairly prejudiced by the nonallowability of the payment at a later time; and
(xi) Any other amounts authorized or directed by the Secretary.
(3) Accounting basis. Except as approved by the Secretary, a guaranty agency shall credit the items listed in paragraph (a)(1) of this section to its reserve fund upon their receipt, without any deferral for accounting purposes, and shall deduct the items listed in paragraph (a)(2) of this section from its reserve fund upon their payment, without any accrual for accounting purposes.
(4) Accounting records.
(i) The accounting records of a guaranty agency must reflect the correct amount of sources and uses of funds under paragraph (a) of this section.
(ii) A guaranty agency may reverse prior credits to its reserve fund if -
(A) The agency gives the Secretary prior notice setting forth a detailed justification for the action;
(B) The Secretary determines that such credits were made erroneously and in good faith; and
(C) The Secretary determines that the action would not unfairly prejudice other parties.
(iii) A guaranty agency shall correct any other errors in its accounting or reporting as soon as practicable after the errors become known to the agency.
(iv) If a general reconstruction of a guaranty agency's historical accounting records is necessary to make a change under paragraphs (a)(4)(ii) and (a)(4)(iii) of this section or any other retroactive change to its accounting records, the agency may make this reconstruction only upon prior approval by the Secretary and without any deduction from its reserve fund for the cost of the reconstruction.
(5) Investments. The guaranty agency shall exercise the level of care required of a fiduciary charged with the duty of investing the money of others when it invests the assets of the reserve fund described in paragraph (a)(1) of this section. It may invest these assets only in low-risk securities, such as obligations issued or guaranteed by the United States or a State.
(6) Development of assets.
(i) If the guaranty agency uses in a substantial way for purposes other than the agency's guaranty activities any funds required to be credited to the reserve fund under paragraph (a)(1) of this section or any assets derived from the reserve fund to develop an asset of any kind and does not in good faith allocate a portion of the cost of developing and maintaining the developed asset to funds other than the reserve fund, the Secretary may require the agency to -
(A) Correct this allocation under paragraph (a)(4)(iii) of this section; or
(B) Correct the recorded ownership of the asset under paragraph (a)(4)(iii) of this section so that -
(1) If, in a transaction with an unrelated third party, the agency sells or otherwise derives revenue from uses of the asset that are unrelated to the agency's guaranty activities, the agency promptly shall deposit into the reserve fund described in paragraph (a)(1) of this section a percentage of the sale proceeds or revenue equal to the fair percentage of the total development cost of the asset paid with the reserve fund monies or provided by assets derived from the reserve fund; or
(2) If the agency otherwise converts the asset, in whole or in part, to a use unrelated to its guaranty activities, the agency promptly shall deposit into the reserve fund described in paragraph (a)(1) of this section a fair percentage of the fair market value or, in the case of a temporary conversion, the rental value of the portion of the asset employed for the unrelated use.
(7) Third-party claims. If the guaranty agency has any claim against any other party to recover funds or other assets for the reserve fund, the claim is the property of the United States.
(8) Related-party transactions. All transactions between a guaranty agency and a related organization or other person that involve funds required to be credited to the agency's reserve fund under paragraph (a)(1) of this section or assets derived from the reserve fund must be on terms that are not less advantageous to the reserve fund than would have been negotiated on an arm's-length basis by unrelated parties.
(9) Scope of definition. The provisions of this § 682.410(a) define reserve funds and assets for purposes of sections 422 and 428 of the Act. These provisions do not, however, affect the Secretary's authority to use all funds and assets of the agency pursuant to section 428(c)(9)(F)(vi) of the Act.
(10) Minimum reserve fund level. The guaranty agency must maintain a current minimum reserve level of not less than -
(i) .5 percent of the amount of loans outstanding, for the fiscal year of the agency that begins in calendar year 1993;
(ii) .7 percent of the amount of loans outstanding, for the fiscal year of the agency that begins in calendar year 1994;
(iii) .9 percent of the amount of loans outstanding, for the fiscal year of the agency that begins in calendar year 1995; and
(iv) 1.1 percent of the amount of loans outstanding, for each fiscal year of the agency that begins on or after January 1, 1996.
(11) Definitions. For purposes of this section -
(i) Reserve fund level means -
(A) The total of reserve fund assets as defined in paragraph (a)(1) of this section;
(ii) Amount of loans outstanding means -
(A) The sum of -
(1) The original principal amount of all loans guaranteed by the agency; and
(2) The original principal amount of any loans on which the guarantee was transferred to the agency from another guarantor, excluding loan guarantees transferred to another agency pursuant to a plan of the Secretary in response to the insolvency of the agency;
(B) Minus the original principal amount of all loans on which -
(1) The loan guarantee was cancelled;
(2) The loan guarantee was transferred to another agency;
(3) Payment in full has been made by the borrower;
(4) Reinsurance coverage has been lost and cannot be regained; and
(5) The agency paid claims.
(iii) Reasonable cost means a cost that, in its nature and amount, does not exceed that which would be incurred by a prudent person under the circumstances prevailing at the time the decision was made to incur the cost. The burden of proof is upon the guaranty agency, as a fiduciary under its agreements with the Secretary, to establish that costs are reasonable. In determining reasonableness of a given cost, consideration must be given to -
(A) Whether the cost is of a type generally recognized as ordinary and necessary for the proper and efficient performance and administration of the guaranty agency's responsibilities under the HEA;
(B) The restraints or requirements imposed by factors such as sound business practices, arms-length bargaining, Federal, State, and other laws and regulations, and the terms and conditions of the guaranty agency's agreements with the Secretary; and
(C) Market prices of comparable goods or services.
(b) Administrative requirements -
(1) Independent audits. The guaranty agency shall arrange for an independent financial and compliance audit of the agency's FFEL program as follows:
(ii) A guaranty agency must conduct an audit in accordance with 31 U.S.C. 7502 and 2 CFR part 200, subpart F - Audit Requirements. If a nonprofit guaranty agency meets the criteria in 2 CFR part 200, subpart F - Audit Requirements to have a program specific audit, and chooses that option, the program-specific audit must meet the following requirements:
(2) Collection charges.
(i) Whether or not provided for in the borrower's promissory note and subject to any limitation on the amount of those costs in that note, the guaranty agency may charge a borrower an amount equal to the reasonable costs incurred by the agency in collecting a loan on which the agency has paid a default or bankruptcy claim unless, within the 60-day period after the guaranty agency sends the initial notice described in paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section, the borrower enters into an acceptable repayment agreement, including a rehabilitation agreement, and honors that agreement, in which case the guaranty agency must not charge a borrower any collection costs.
(ii) An acceptable repayment agreement may include an agreement described in § 682.200(b) (Satisfactory repayment arrangement), § 682.405, or paragraph (b)(5)(ii)(D) of this section. An acceptable repayment agreement constitutes a repayment arrangement or agreement on repayment terms satisfactory to the guaranty agency, under this section.
(iii) The costs under this paragraph (b)(2) include, but are not limited to, all attorneys' fees, collection agency charges, and court costs. Except as provided in §§ 682.401(b)(18)(i) and 682.405(b)(1)(vi)(B), the amount charged a borrower must equal the lesser of -
(A) The amount the same borrower would be charged for the cost of collection under the formula in 34 CFR 30.60; or
(B) The amount the same borrower would be charged for the cost of collection if the loan was held by the U.S. Department of Education.
(3) Interest charged by guaranty agencies.
(i) Except as provided in paragraph (b)(3)(ii) of this section, the guaranty agency shall charge the borrower interest on the amount owed by the borrower after the capitalization required under paragraph (b)(4) of this section has occurred at a rate that is the greater of -
(A) The rate established by the terms of the borrower's original promissory note; or
(B) In the case of a loan for which a judgment has been obtained, the rate provided for by State law.
(ii) If the guaranty agency determines that the borrower is eligible for the interest rate limit of six percent under § 682.202(a)(8), the interest rate described in paragraph (b)(3)(i) shall not exceed six percent.
(4) Capitalization of unpaid interest. The guaranty agency shall capitalize any unpaid interest due the lender from the borrower at the time the agency pays a default claim to the lender, but shall not capitalize any unpaid interest thereafter.
(5) Reports to consumer reporting agencies.
(i) After the completion of the procedures in paragraph (b)(5)(ii) of this section, the guaranty agency shall, after it has paid a default claim, report promptly, but not less than sixty days after completion of the procedures in paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section, and on a regular basis, to all nationwide consumer reporting agencies -
(A) The total amount of loans made to the borrower and the remaining balance of those loans;
(B) The date of default;
(C) Information concerning collection of the loan, including the repayment status of the loan;
(D) Any changes or corrections in the information reported by the agency that result from information received after the initial report; and
(E) The date the loan is fully repaid by or on behalf of the borrower or discharged by reason of the borrower's death, bankruptcy, total and permanent disability, or closed school or false certification.
(ii) The guaranty agency, after it pays a default claim on a loan but before it reports the default to a consumer reporting agency or assesses collection costs against a borrower, shall, within the timeframe specified in paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section, provide the borrower with -
(A) Written notice that meets the requirements of paragraph (b)(5)(vi) of this section regarding the proposed actions;
(B) An opportunity to inspect and copy agency records pertaining to the loan obligation;
(C) An opportunity for an administrative review of the legal enforceability or past-due status of the loan obligation; and
(D) An opportunity to enter into a repayment agreement on terms satisfactory to the agency.
(A) In response to a request submitted by a borrower, after the deadlines established under agency rules, for access to records, an administrative review, or for an opportunity to enter into a repayment agreement, the agency shall provide the requested relief but may continue reporting the debt to consumer reporting agencies until it determines that the borrower has demonstrated that the loan obligation is not legally enforceable or that alternative repayment arrangements satisfactory to the agency have been made with the borrower.
(v) An agency may not permit an employee, official, or agent to conduct the administrative review required under this paragraph if that individual is -
(A) Employed in an organizational component of the agency or its agent that is charged with collection of loan obligations; or
(B) Compensated on the basis of collections on loan obligations.
(vi) The notice sent by the agency under paragraph (b)(5)(ii)(A) of this section must -
(A) Advise the borrower that the agency has paid a default claim filed by the lender and has taken assignment of the loan;
(B) Identify the lender that made the loan and the school for attendance at which the loan was made;
(C) State the outstanding principal, accrued interest, and any other charges then owing on the loan;
(D) Demand that the borrower immediately begin repayment of the loan;
(E) Explain the rate of interest that will accrue on the loan, that all costs incurred to collect the loan will be charged to the borrower, the authority for assessing these costs, and the manner in which the agency will calculate the amount of these costs;
(F) Notify the borrower that the agency will report the default to all nationwide consumer reporting agencies to the detriment of the borrower's credit rating;
(G) Explain the opportunities available to the borrower under agency rules to request access to the agency's records on the loan, to request an administrative review of the legal enforceability or past-due status of the loan, and to reach an agreement on repayment terms satisfactory to the agency to prevent the agency from reporting the loan as defaulted to consumer reporting agencies and provide deadlines and method for requesting this relief;
(H) Unless the agency uses a separate notice to advise the borrower regarding other proposed enforcement actions, describe specifically any other enforcement action, such as offset against Federal or state income tax refunds or wage garnishment that the agency intends to use to collect the debt, and explain the procedures available to the borrower prior to those other enforcement actions for access to records, for an administrative review, or for agreement to alternative repayment terms;
(I) Describe the grounds on which the borrower may object that the loan obligation as stated in the notice is not a legally enforceable debt owed by the borrower;
(J) Describe any appeal rights available to the borrower from an adverse decision on administrative review of the loan obligation;
(K) Describe any right to judicial review of an adverse decision by the agency regarding the legal enforceability or past-due status of the loan obligation;
(L) Describe the collection actions that the agency may take in the future if those presently proposed do not result in repayment of the loan obligation, including the filing of a lawsuit against the borrower by the agency and assignment of the loan to the Secretary for the filing of a lawsuit against the borrower by the Federal Government; and
(M) Inform the borrower of the options that are available to the borrower to remove the loan from default, including an explanation of the fees and conditions associated with each option.
(vii) As part of the guaranty agency's response to a borrower who appeals an adverse decision resulting from the agency's administrative review of the loan obligation, the agency must provide the borrower with information on the availability of the Student Loan Ombudsman's office.
(6) Collection efforts on defaulted loans.
(i) A guaranty agency must engage in reasonable and documented collection activities on a loan on which it pays a default claim filed by a lender. For a non-paying borrower, the agency must perform at least one activity every 180 days to collect the debt, locate the borrower (if necessary), or determine if the borrower has the means to repay the debt.
(ii) Within 45 days after paying a lender's default claim, the agency must send a notice to the borrower that contains the information described in paragraph (b)(5)(ii) of this section. During this time period, the agency also must notify the borrower, either in the notice containing the information described in paragraph (b)(5)(ii) of this section, or in a separate notice, that if he or she does not make repayment arrangements acceptable to the agency, the agency will promptly initiate procedures to collect the debt. The agency's notification to the borrower must state that the agency may administratively garnish the borrower's wages, file a civil suit to compel repayment, offset the borrower's State and Federal income tax refunds and other payments made by the Federal Government to the borrower, assign the loan to the Secretary in accordance with § 682.409, and take other lawful collection means to collect the debt, at the discretion of the agency. The agency's notification must include a statement that borrowers may have certain legal rights in the collection of debts, and that borrowers may wish to contact counselors or lawyers regarding those rights.
(iii) Within a reasonable time after all of the information described in paragraph (b)(6)(ii) of this section has been sent, the agency must send at least one notice informing the borrower that the default has been reported to all nationwide consumer reporting agencies and that the borrower's credit rating may thereby have been damaged.
(iv) The agency must send a notice informing the borrower of the options that are available to remove the loan from default, including an explanation of the fees and conditions associated with each option. This notice must be sent within a reasonable time after the end of the period for requesting an administrative review as specified in paragraph (b)(5)(iv)(B) of this section or, if the borrower has requested an administrative review, within a reasonable time following the conclusion of the administrative review.
(v) A guaranty agency must attempt an annual Federal offset against all eligible borrowers. If an agency initiates proceedings to offset a borrower's State or Federal income tax refunds and other payments made by the Federal Government to the borrower, it may not initiate those proceedings sooner than 60 days after sending the notice described in paragraph (b)(5)(ii)(A) of this section.
(vi) A guaranty agency must initiate administrative wage garnishment proceedings against all eligible borrowers, except as provided in paragraph (b)(6)(vii) of this section, by following the procedures described in paragraph (b)(9) of this section.
(vii) A guaranty agency may file a civil suit against a borrower to compel repayment only if the borrower has no wages that can be garnished under paragraph (b)(9) of this section, or the agency determines that the borrower has sufficient attachable assets or income that is not subject to administrative wage garnishment that can be used to repay the debt, and the use of litigation would be more effective in collection of the debt.
(viii) Upon notification by the Secretary that the borrower has made a borrower defense claim related to a loan that the borrower intends to consolidate into the Direct Loan Program for the purpose of seeking relief in accordance with § 685.212(k), the guaranty agency must suspend all collection activities on the affected loan for the period designated by the Secretary.
(7) Special conditions for agency payment of a claim.
(i) A guaranty agency may adopt a policy under which it pays a claim to a lender on a loan under the condition described in § 682.404(b)(3)(ii).
(ii) Upon the payment of a claim under a policy described in paragraph (b)(7)(i) of this section, the guaranty agency shall -
(A) Perform the loan servicing functions required of a lender under § 682.208, except that the agency is not required to follow the consumer reporting agency reporting requirements of that section;
(B) Perform the functions of the lender during the repayment period of the loan, as required under § 682.209;
(C) If the borrower is delinquent in repaying the loan at the time the agency pays a claim thereon to the lender or becomes delinquent while the agency holds the loan, exercise due diligence in accordance with § 682.411 in attempting to collect the loan from the borrower and any endorser or co-maker; and
(D) After the date of default on the loan, if any, comply with paragraph (b)(6) of this section with respect to collection activities on the loan, with the date of default treated as the claim payment date for purposes of those paragraphs.
(8) Preemption of State law. The provisions of paragraphs (b)(2), (5), and (6) of this section preempt any State law, including State statutes, regulations, or rules, that would conflict with or hinder satisfaction of the requirements of these provisions.
(9) Administrative garnishment.
(i) If a guaranty agency decides to garnish the disposable pay of a borrower who is not making payments on a loan held by the agency, on which the Secretary has paid a reinsurance claim, it must do so in accordance with the following procedures:
(A) At least 30 days before the initiation of garnishment proceedings, the guaranty agency must mail to the borrower's last known address, a written notice described in paragraph (b)(9)(i)(B) of this section.
(B) The notice must describe -
(1) The nature and amount of the debt;
(2) The intention of the agency to collect the debt through deductions from disposable pay;
(3) An explanation of the borrower's rights;
(4) The deadlines by which a borrower must exercise those rights; and
(5) The consequences of failure to exercise those rights in a timely manner.
(C) The guaranty agency must offer the borrower an opportunity to inspect and copy agency records related to the debt.
(D) The guaranty agency must offer the borrower an opportunity to enter into a written repayment agreement with the agency under terms agreeable to the agency.
(1) The guaranty agency must offer the borrower an opportunity for a hearing in accordance with paragraphs (b)(9)(i)(F) through (J) of this section and other guidance provided by the Secretary, for any objection regarding the existence, amount, or enforceability of the debt, and any objection that withholding from the borrower's disposable pay in the amount or at the rate proposed in the notice would cause financial hardship to the borrower.
(2) The borrower must request a hearing in writing. At the borrower's option, the hearing may be oral or written. The time and location of the hearing is established by the guaranty agency. An oral hearing may, at the borrower's option, be conducted either in-person or by telephone conference. The agency notifies the borrower of the process for arranging the time and location of an oral hearing. All telephonic charges are the responsibility of the agency. All travel expenses incurred by the borrower in connection with an in-person oral hearing are the responsibility of the borrower.
(1) If the borrower submits a written request for a hearing on the existence, amount, or enforceability of the debt -
(i) The guaranty agency must provide evidence of the existence of the debt. If the agency provides evidence of the existence of the debt, the borrower must prove by the preponderance of the evidence that no debt exists, the debt is not enforceable under applicable law, the amount the guaranty agency claims the borrower owes is incorrect, including that any amount of collection costs assessed to the borrower exceeds the limits established under § 682.410(b)(2), or the debt is not delinquent; and
(ii) The borrower may raise any of the objections described in paragraph (b)(9)(i)(F)(1)(i) of this section not raised in the written request, but must do so before a hearing is completed. For purposes of this paragraph, a hearing is completed when the record is closed and the hearing official notifies the parties that no additional evidence or objections will be accepted.
(2) If the borrower submits a written request for a hearing on an objection that withholding in the amount or at the rate that the agency proposed in its notice would cause financial hardship to the borrower and the borrower's spouse and dependents -
(i) The borrower bears the burden of proving the claim of financial hardship by a preponderance of the credible evidence by providing credible documentation that the amount of wages proposed in the notice would leave the borrower unable to meet basic living expenses of the borrower, the borrower's spouse, and the borrower's dependents. The documentation must show the amount of the costs incurred for basic living expenses and the income available from any source to meet those expenses;
(ii) The borrower's claim of financial hardship must be evaluated by comparing the amounts that the borrower proves are being incurred for basic living expenses against the amounts spent for basic living expenses by families of the same size as the borrower's. For the purposes of this section, the standards published by the Internal Revenue Service under 26 U.S.C. 7122(d)(2) (the ”Collection Financial Standards”) establish the average amounts spent for basic living expenses for families of the same size as the borrower's family;
(iii) The amount that the borrower proves is incurred for a type of basic living expense is considered to be reasonable to the extent that the amount does not exceed the amount spent for that expense by families of the same size according to the Collection Financial Standards. If the borrower claims an amount for any basic living expense that exceeds the amount in the Collection Financial Standards, the borrower must prove that the amount claimed is reasonable and necessary;
(iv) If the borrower's objection to the rate or amount proposed in the notice is upheld in part, the garnishment must be ordered at a lesser rate or amount, that is determined will allow the borrower to meet basic living expenses proven to be reasonable and necessary. If this financial hardship determination is made after a garnishment order is already in effect, the guaranty agency must notify the borrower's employer of any change required by the determination in the amount to be withheld or the rate of withholding under that order; and
(v) A determination by a hearing official that financial hardship would result from garnishment is effective for a period not longer than six months after the date of the finding. After this period, the guaranty agency may require the borrower to submit current information regarding the borrower's family income and living expenses. If the borrower fails to submit current information within 30 days of this request, or the guaranty agency concludes from a review of the available evidence that garnishment should now begin or the rate or the amount of an outstanding withholding should be increased, the guaranty agency must notify the borrower and provide the borrower with an opportunity to contest the determination and obtain a hearing on the objection under the procedures in paragraph (b)(9)(i) of this section.
(G) If the borrower's written request for a hearing is received by the guaranty agency on or before the 30th day following the date of the notice described in paragraph (b)(9)(i)(B) of this section, the guaranty agency may not issue a withholding order until the borrower has been provided the requested hearing and a decision has been rendered. The guaranty agency must provide a hearing to the borrower in sufficient time to permit a decision, in accordance with the procedures that the agency may prescribe, to be rendered within 60 days.
(H) If the borrower's written request for a hearing is received by the guaranty agency after the 30th day following the date of the notice described in paragraph (b)(9)(i)(B) of this section, the guaranty agency must provide a hearing to the borrower in sufficient time that a decision, in accordance with the procedures that the agency may prescribe, may be rendered within 60 days, but may not delay issuance of a withholding order unless the agency determines that the delay in filing the request was caused by factors over which the borrower had no control, or the agency receives information that the agency believes justifies a delay or cancellation of the withholding order. If a decision is not rendered within 60 days following receipt of a borrower's written request for a hearing, the guaranty agency must suspend the order beginning on the 61st day after the hearing request was received until a hearing is provided and a decision is rendered.
(I) The hearing official appointed by the agency to conduct the hearing may be any qualified individual, including an administrative law judge. Under no circumstance may the hearing official be under the supervision or control of the head of the guaranty agency or of a third-party servicer or collection contractor employed by the agency. Payment of compensation by the guaranty agency, third-party servicer, or collection contractor employed by the agency to the hearing official for service as a hearing official does not constitute impermissible supervision or control under this paragraph. The guaranty agency must ensure that, except as needed to arrange for administrative matters pertaining to the hearing, including the type of hearing requested by the borrower, the time, place, and manner of conducting an oral hearing, and post-hearing matters such as issuance of a hearing decision, all oral communications between the hearing official and any representative of the guaranty agency or with the borrower are made within the hearing of the other party, and that copies of any written communication with either party are promptly provided to the other party. This paragraph does not preclude a hearing in the absence of one of the parties if the borrower is given proper notice of the hearing, both parties have agreed on the time, place, and manner of the hearing, and one of the parties fails to attend.
(J) The hearing official must conduct any hearing as an informal proceeding, require witnesses in an oral hearing to testify under oath or affirmation, and maintain a summary record of any hearing. The hearing official must issue a final written decision at the earliest practicable date, but not later than 60 days after the guaranty agency's receipt of the borrower's hearing request. However -
(1) The borrower may request an extension of that deadline for a reasonable period, as determined by the hearing official, for the purpose of submitting additional evidence or raising a new objection described in paragraph (b)(9)(i)(F)(1)(ii) of this section; and
(2) The agency may request, and the hearing official must grant, a reasonable extension of time sufficient to enable the guaranty agency to evaluate and respond to any such additional evidence or any objections raised pursuant to paragraph (b)(9)(i)(F)(1)(ii) of this section.
(K) An employer served with a garnishment order from the guaranty agency with respect to a borrower whose wages are not then subject to a withholding order of any kind must deduct and pay to the agency from a borrower's disposable pay an amount that does not exceed the smallest of -
(1) The amount specified in the guaranty agency order;
(2) The amount permitted by section 488A(a)(1) of the Act, which is 15 percent of the borrower's disposable pay; or
(3) The amount permitted by 15 U.S.C. 1673(a)(2), which is the amount by which the borrower's disposable pay exceeds 30 times the minimum wage.
(L) If a borrower's pay is subject to more than one garnishment order -
(1) Unless other Federal law requires a different priority, the employer must pay the agency the amount calculated under paragraph (b)(9)(i)(K) of this section before the employer complies with any later garnishment orders, except a family support withholding order;
(2) If an employer is withholding from a borrower's pay based on a garnishment order served on the employer before the guaranty agency's order, or if a withholding order for family support is served on an employer at any time, the employer must comply with the agency's garnishment order by withholding an amount that is the lesser of -
(i) The amount specified in the guaranty agency order; or
(ii) The amount calculated under paragraph (b)(9)(i)(L)(3) of this section less the amount or amounts withheld under the garnishment order or orders that have priority over the agency's order; and
(3) The cumulative withholding for all garnishment orders issued by guaranty agencies may not exceed, for an individual borrower, the amount permitted by 15 U.S.C. 1673, which is the lesser of 25 percent of the borrower's disposable pay or the amount by which the borrower's disposable pay exceeds 30 times the minimum wage. If a borrower owes debts to one or more guaranty agencies, each agency may issue a garnishment order to enforce each of those debts, but no single agency may order a total amount exceeding 15 percent of the disposable pay of a borrower to be withheld. The employer must honor these orders as provided in paragraphs (b)(9)(i)(L)(1) and (2) of this section.
(M) Notwithstanding paragraphs (b)(9)(i)(K) and (L) of this section, an employer may withhold and pay a greater amount than required under the order if the borrower gives the employer written consent.
(N) A borrower may, at any time, raise an objection to the amount or the rate of withholding specified in the guaranty agency's order to the borrower's employer on the ground of financial hardship. However, the guaranty agency is not required to consider such an objection and provide the borrower with a hearing until at least six months after the agency issued the most recent garnishment order, either one for which the borrower did not request a hearing or one that was issued after a hardship-related hearing determination. The agency may provide a hearing in extraordinary circumstances earlier than six months if the borrower's request for review shows that the borrower's financial circumstances have substantially changed after the garnishment notice because of an event such as injury, divorce, or catastrophic illness.
(O) A garnishment order is effective until the guaranty agency rescinds the order or the agency has fully recovered the amounts owed by the borrower, including interest, late fees, and collections costs. If an employer is unable to honor a garnishment order because the amount available for garnishment is insufficient to pay any portion of the amount stated in the order, the employer must notify the agency and comply with the order when sufficient disposable pay is available. Upon full recovery of the debt, the agency must send the borrower's employer notification to stop wage withholding.
(P) The guaranty agency must sue any employer for any amount that the employer, after receipt of the withholding order provided by the agency under paragraph (b)(9)(i)(R) of this section, fails to withhold from wages owed and payable to an employee under the employer's normal pay and disbursement cycle.
(Q) The guaranty agency may not garnish the wages of a borrower whom it knows has been involuntarily separated from employment until the borrower has been reemployed continuously for at least 12 months. The borrower has the burden of informing the guaranty agency of the circumstances surrounding the borrower's involuntary separation from employment.
(R) Unless the guaranty agency receives information that the agency believes justifies a delay or cancellation of the withholding order, it must send a withholding order to the employer within 20 days after the borrower fails to make a timely request for a hearing, or, if a timely request for a hearing is made by the borrower, within 20 days after a final decision is made by the agency to proceed with garnishment.
(S) The notice given to the employer under paragraph (b)(9)(i)(R) of this section must contain only the information as may be necessary for the employer to comply with the withholding order and to ensure proper credit for payments received. At a minimum, the notice given to the employer includes the borrower's name, address, and Social Security Number, as well as instructions for withholding and information as to where the employer must send payments.
(1) A guaranty agency may use a third-party servicer or collection contractor to perform administrative activities associated with administrative wage garnishment, but may not allow such a party to conduct required hearings or to determine that a withholding order is to be issued. Subject to the limitations of paragraphs (b)(9)(i)(T)(2) and (3) of this section, administrative activities associated with administrative wage garnishment may include but are not limited to -
(i) Identifying to the agency suitable candidates for wage garnishment pursuant to agency standards;
(ii) Obtaining employment information for the purposes of garnishment;
(iii) Sending candidates selected for garnishment by the agency notices prescribed by the agency;
(iv) Negotiating alternative repayment arrangements with borrowers;
(v) Responding to inquiries from notified borrowers;
(vi) Receiving garnishment payments on behalf of the agency;
(vii) Arranging for the retention of hearing officials and for the conduct of hearings on behalf of the agency;
(viii) Providing information to borrowers or hearing officials on the process or conduct of hearings; and
(ix) Sending garnishment orders and other communications to employers on behalf of the agency.
(2) Only an authorized official of the agency may determine that an individual withholding order is to be issued. The guarantor must record the official's determination for each order it issues, including any order which it causes to be prepared or mailed by a third-party servicer or collection contractor. The guarantor must evidence the official's approval, either by including the official's signature on the order or, if the agency uses a form of withholding order that does not provide for execution by signature, by retaining in the agency's records the identity of the approving official, the date of the approval, the amount or rate of the order, the name and address of the employer to whom the order was issued, and the debt for which the order was issued.
(3) The withholding order must identify the guaranty agency as the holder of the debt, as the issuer of the order, and as the sole party legally authorized to issue the withholding order. If a guaranty agency uses a third-party servicer or collection contractor to prepare and mail a withholding order that includes the name of the servicer or contractor that prepared or mailed the order, the guaranty agency must also ensure that the order contains no captions or representations that the servicer or contractor is the party that issued, or was empowered by Federal law or by the agency to issue, the withholding order.
(U) As specified in section 488A(a)(8) of the Act, the borrower may seek judicial relief, including punitive damages, if the employer discharges, refuses to employ, or takes disciplinary action against the borrower due to the issuance of a withholding order.
(V) A guaranty agency is required to suspend a garnishment order when the agency receives a borrower's fifth qualifying payment under a loan rehabilitation agreement with the agency, unless otherwise directed by the borrower, in accordance with § 682.405(a)(3).
(ii) For purposes of paragraph (b)(9) of this section -
(A) “Borrower” includes all endorsers on a loan;
(B) “Day” means calendar day;
(C) “Disposable pay” means that part of a borrower's compensation for personal services, whether or not denominated as wages from an employer, that remains after the deduction of health insurance premiums and any amounts required by law to be withheld, and includes, but is not limited to, salary, bonuses, commissions, or vacation pay. “Amounts required by law to be withheld” include amounts for deductions such as Social Security taxes and withholding taxes, but do not include any amount withheld under a court order or other withholding order. All references to an amount of disposable pay refer to disposable pay calculated for a single week;
(D) “Employer” means a person or entity that employs the services of another and that pays the latter's wages or salary and includes, but is not limited to, State and local governments, but does not include an agency of the Federal Government;
(E) “Financial hardship” means an inability to meet basic living expenses for goods and services necessary for the survival of the borrower and the borrower's spouse and dependents;
(F) “Garnishment” means the process of withholding amounts from an employee's disposable pay and paying those amounts to a creditor in satisfaction of a withholding order; and
(G) “Withholding order” means any order for withholding or garnishment of pay issued by the guaranty agency and may also be referred to as “wage garnishment order” or “garnishment order.”
(10) Conflicts of interest.
(i) A guaranty agency shall maintain and enforce written standards of conduct governing the performance of its employees, officers, directors, trustees, and agents engaged in the selection, award, and administration of contracts or agreements. The standards of conduct must, at a minimum, require disclosure of financial or other interests and must mandate disinterested decision-making. The standards must provide for appropriate disciplinary actions to be applied for violations of the standards by employees, officers, directors, trustees, or agents of the guaranty agency, and must include provisions to -
(A) Prohibit any employee, officer, director, trustee, or agent from participating in the selection, award, or decision-making related to the administration of a contract or agreement supported by the reserve fund described in paragraph (a) of this section, if that participation would create a conflict of interest. Such a conflict would arise if the employee, officer, director, trustee, or agent, or any member of his or her immediate family, his or her partner, or an organization that employs or is about to employ any of those parties has a financial or ownership interest in the organization selected for an award or would benefit from the decision made in the administration of the contract or agreement. The prohibitions described in this paragraph do not apply to employees of a State agency covered by codes of conduct established under State law;
(B) Ensure sufficient separation of responsibility and authority between its lender claims processing as a guaranty agency and its lending or loan servicing activities, or both, within the guaranty agency or between that agency and one or more affiliates, including independence in direct reporting requirements and such management and systems controls as may be necessary to demonstrate, in the independent audit required under § 682.410(b)(1), that claims filed by another arm of the guaranty agency or by an affiliate of that agency receive no more favorable treatment than that accorded the claims filed by a lender or servicer that is not an affiliate or part of the guaranty agency; and
(C) Prohibit the employees, officers, directors, trustees, and agents of the guaranty agency, his or her partner, or any member of his or her immediate family, from soliciting or accepting gratuities, favors, or anything of monetary value from contractors or parties to agreements, except that nominal and unsolicited gratuities, favors, or items may be accepted.
(ii) Guaranty agency restructuring. If the Secretary determines that action is necessary to protect the Federal fiscal interest because of an agency's failure to meet the requirements of § 682.410(b)(10)(i), the Secretary may require the agency to comply with any additional measures that the Secretary believes are appropriate, including the total divestiture of the agency's non-FFEL functions and the agency's interests in any affiliated organization.
(c) Enforcement requirements. A guaranty agency shall take such measures and establish such controls as are necessary to ensure its vigorous enforcement of all Federal, State, and guaranty agency requirements, including agreements, applicable to its loan guarantee program, including, at a minimum, the following:
(1) Conducting comprehensive biennial on-site program reviews, using statistically valid techniques to calculate liabilities to the Secretary that each review indicates may exist, of at least -
(A) Each participating lender whose dollar volume of FFEL loans held by the lender and guaranteed by the agency in the preceding year -
(1) Equaled or exceeded two percent of the total of all loans guaranteed by the agency;
(2) Was one of the ten largest lenders whose loans were guaranteed by the agency; or
(3) Equaled or exceeded $10 million in the most recent fiscal year;
(B) Each lender described in section 435(d)(1)(D) or (J) of the Act that is located in any State in which the agency is the principal guarantor, and, at the option of each guaranty agency, the Student Loan Marketing Association; and
(C) Each school that participated in the guaranty agency's program, located in a State for which the guaranty agency is the principal guaranty agency, that has a cohort default rate, as described in subpart M of 34 CFR part 668, that includes FFEL Program loans, for either of the 2 immediately preceding fiscal years, as defined in 34 CFR 668.182, that exceeds 20 percent, unless the school is under a mandate from the Secretary under subpart M of 34 CFR part 668 to take specific default reduction measures or if the total dollar amount of loans entering repayment in each fiscal year on which the cohort default rate of over 20 percent is based does not exceed $100,000; or
(ii) The schools and lenders selected by the agency as an alternative to the reviews required by paragraphs (c)(1)(i)(A)-(C) of this section if the Secretary approves the agency's proposed alternative selection methodology.
(2) Demanding prompt repayment by the responsible parties to lenders, borrowers, the agency, or the Secretary, as appropriate, of all funds found in those reviews to be owed by the participants with regard to loans guaranteed by the agency, whether or not the agency holds the loans, and monitoring the implementation by participants of corrective actions, including these repayments, required by the agency as a result of those reviews.
(3) Referring to the Secretary for further enforcement action any case in which repayment of funds to the Secretary is not made in full within 60 days of the date of the agency's written demand to the school, lender, or other party for payment, together with all supporting documentation, any correspondence, and any other documentation submitted by that party regarding the repayment.
(4) Undertaking or arranging with State or local law enforcement agencies for the prompt and thorough investigation of all allegations and indications of criminal or other programmatic misconduct by its program participants, including violations of Federal law or regulations.
(5) Promptly referring to appropriate State and local regulatory agencies and to nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations for investigation information received by the guaranty agency that may affect the retention or renewal of the license or accreditation of a program participant.
(6) Promptly reporting all of the allegations and indications of misconduct having a substantial basis in fact, and the scope, progress, and results of the agency's investigations thereof to the Secretary.
(7) Referring appropriate cases to State or local authorities for criminal prosecution or civil litigation.
(8) Promptly notifying the Secretary of -
(i) Any action it takes affecting the FFEL program eligibility of a participating lender or title IV eligibility of a school;
(ii) Information it receives regarding an action affecting the FFEL program eligibility of a participating lender or title IV eligibility of a school taken by a nationally recognized accrediting agency, association, or a State licensing agency;
(iii) Any judicial or administrative proceeding relating to the enforceability of FFEL loans guaranteed by the agency or in which tuition obligations of a school's students are directly at issue, other than a proceeding relating to a single borrower or student; and
(iv) Any petition for relief in bankruptcy, application for receivership, or corporate dissolution proceeding brought by or against a school or lender participating in its loan guarantee program.
(9) Cooperating with all program reviews, investigations, and audits conducted by the Secretary relating to the agency's loan guarantee program.
(10) Taking prompt action to protect the rights of borrowers and the Federal fiscal interest respecting loans that the agency has guaranteed when the agency learns that a school that participated in the FFEL Program or a holder of loans participating in the program is experiencing problems that threaten the solvency of the school or holder, including -
(i) Conducting on-site program reviews;
(ii) Providing training and technical assistance, if appropriate;
(iii) Filing a proof of claim with a bankruptcy court for recovery of any funds due the agency and any refunds due to borrowers on FFEL loans that it has guaranteed when the agency learns that a school has filed a bankruptcy petition;
(iv) Promptly notifying the Secretary that the agency has determined that a school or holder of loans is experiencing potential solvency problems; and
(v) Promptly notifying the Secretary of the results of any actions taken by the agency to protect Federal funds involving such a school or holder.
(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 1845-0020)
[57 FR 60323, Dec. 18, 1992]