Tester: Protect veterans and troops from consumer abuses

Senator highlights illegal foreclosures, education scams at Senate hearing

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today pushed to improve enforcement of consumer protections for U.S. troops and veterans in the wake of numerous accounts of Wall Street banks and for-profit schools exploiting or ignoring the law.

Tester, speaking at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, highlighted numerous cases where banks have reportedly attempted to illegally foreclose on U.S. service members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, mortgage servicers may not foreclose on active duty troops deployed overseas.

“It is my understanding that there are some servicers that are starting foreclosure while the service member is deployed,” Tester said at the hearing.  “Can you tell me what is the mechanism for mortgage servicers to determine if there is a deployment status of a service member and how is that handled?”

Holly Petraeus, head of the new Office of Servicemember Affairs at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told Tester that it is the lender’s responsibility to check whether service members are on active duty and that some mortgage services are not complying.

“Do we need to ramp up the penalty on them?” Tester responded.  “The last thing you want is a service member in the line of fire looking over their shoulder thinking about a house back home.”

Tester recently went to bat for a Montana service member who nearly lost a home while deployed.  He is a cosponsor of legislation that would extend the protection period from foreclosure for service members and increase penalties for financial institutions that break the law.

Tester also highlighted the unethical recruitment and marketing practices targeting veterans by for-profit schools, saying that “bad actors” in the industry are taking advantage of service members that lack adequate information. 

Tester encouraged Mrs. Petraeus to reach out to more military personnel so that they can better invest in their education to improve their futures.

Video of Tester’s hearing is available online HERE.

Text of Tester’s bill to increase penalties for illegal foreclosures is available online HERE.