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Shocker of the Day: Trump Admin’s New Student Loan Watchdog, Robert Cameron, is a Former Student Loan Executive

— August 20, 2019

Cameron’s former company, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, has received nearly 10,000 complaints from borrowers.

The Trump administration is full of contradictions and conflicts of interest—the appointment of Robert Cameron, a longtime student loan executive, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s loan ombudsman is but another.

The job, writes The Associated Press, is designed ‘to protect student loan borrowers from poor practices in the student loan industry.’ It’s one of a scarce few positions explicitly created by the Dodd-Frank Act, which precipitated the CFPB’s creation after the 2008 financial crisis.

Cameron’s career—not surprisingly—isn’t blemish-free. He served as the head of compliance and risk mitigation for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, better known as FedLoan Servicing. Under Cameron, the PHEAA was criticized and cited for poor industry practices. The company made it difficult for loan recipients to earn forgiveness, even when they met the criteria necessary to have their debt dismissed.

Rolling Stone has gone so far as to characterize Cameron’s appointment as a “giant middle finger to student borrowers everywhere.”

Perhaps that’s due—at least in part—to the Trump administration’s borderline nonexistent interest in protecting student loan recipients. The CFPB’s former student loans ombudsman, Seth Frotman, resigned last year. Frotman said that the Bureau has “turned its back” on employees and borrowers alike.

Frotman, an Obama-era appointee who stayed on for the first few years of Trump’s presidency, was highly critical of Cameron as a successor.

Image of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos has also been criticized for removing regulations that make it easier for predatory for-private colleges to deceive at-risk students. Image via Flickr/user:Gage Skidmore. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“It is outrageous that an executive from the student loan company that has cheated students and taxpayers, and is at the center of every major industry scandal over the past decade, is now in charge of protecting borrowers’ rights,” Frotman said in a statement. “This is an insult to the nation’s 45 million borrowers who deserve an advocate in their corner.”

Frotman, adds The Associated Press, now heads the Student Borrower Protection Center—an organization working outside the federal government, trying to accomplish what Frotman’s original position intended to.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a 2020 presidential contender, was quick to follow suit.

“The CFPB student loan ombudsman is supposed to protect students from getting cheated,” Warren wrote on Twitter. “But the Trump administration’s pick for the job is an executive at a student loan servicer that got over 9,000 complaints from borrowers. In my administration, the CFPB will work for the people.”

After publishing it’s clearly anti-Cameron piece, Rolling Stone says it received a statement from the CFPB—one which probably meant to clear the air, but didn’t address any of the controversies from Cameron’s time with PHEAA.

“As a dedicated public servant, including my civilian and military experience as well as my experience at PA Treasury and PA Governor’s Office of General Counsel drafting regulations and implementing and enforcing a myriad of statutes and regulations, I’m confident I can contribute to achieving the mission of the Private Student Loan Ombudsman,” Cameron said. “In all my work, my commitment has always been to serve the American people and I look forward to continuing that mission at the Bureau.”


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