Hey everyone! Yesterday Jess and I traveled to Newark, Delaware to take part in the Sallie Mae shareholder meeting protest, held at Sallie Mae's headquarters. It was organized by the Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), Jobs with Justice, the United States Student Association, and Rebuild the Dream. Here's a write-up of what happened!To kick things off, here's the image that Tyler and Kimberly created for folks to share online as a virtual solidarity action:If you think it's as awesome as we do, head to our Facebook page to share it with your friends.Rebuild the Dream was there to deliver our petition asking CEO Albert Lord to make Sallie Mae work with students, rather than against them, and provide more repayment options. Over 42,000 members signed it. Five of us would be going into the shareholder meeting to deliver the petition signatures -- here we are, pictured below (L-R), Curtis Hierro, Chris Hicks (SLAP), Annie Mombourquette, Dan Apfel (Responsible Endowments Coalition), and me![caption id="attachment_5286" align="aligncenter" width="510" caption="From Twitter user @JessLivMo"][/caption]There were two components to the protest -- and both ended up working incredibly together to get the most out of the action. Folks would be protesting outside of the Sallie Mae headquarters where the shareholder meeting was taking place. The other component was that Curtis, Chris, Annie, Dan, and I would be making our way into the actual shareholder meeting to take control of the question and answer session and deliver the petition.Hundreds of folks turned out to hold a protest outside. Students, graduates, labor unions, community groups, and tons of others took part in a mock graduation to complete with ball and chain props to signify debt. Sallie Mae was ready for us -- they had set up orange cones and sent lots of police officers to greet us. The other component took place inside of Sallie Mae. In order to attend a shareholder meeting, you have to be a shareholder. Some of us had purchased shares, and some of us were proxies, meaning that we had permission to attend the meeting on behalf of an actual shareholder. Here are some pictures I (discreetly) took from inside the building... where we could HEAR the protest going on outside! Amazing power.And the best one -- evidence of what Sallie Mae was expecting: We made it into the meeting just as the question and answer session was starting. The session allows shareholders to ask the corporate board questions that relate to the meeting's proposals. We had each prepared a question intended to evoke responses -- but the main purpose was to make a statement. Unfortunately, they didn't allow cell phones in the meeting so we don't have footage from inside. Curtis told his story of being tens of thousands in debt. Annie shared that two months ago, she was arrested at a Sallie Mae protest held in DC. Chris and Dan demanded that Sallie Mae stop profiting off the backs of students, and I presented the petition with the help of everyone else. But they wouldn't allow us to deliver it to CEO Albert Lord himself -- even though he was sitting right up front. It was as if he was untouchable! So, his right-hand man offered to hand it to Lord himself and repeat back to us what our demands were!This action was one part of a larger struggle in student debt -- it isn't just focused on Sallie Mae. Yesterday, the Senate voted again on the interest rate... and it failed again. We have so far to go, but we have the power to organize and get our messages out. We have the power to make people listen. We're young, and we're ready. Edited To Add: Our Sallie Mae protest got media coverage from NewsWorks and the USA Today!
This Thursday, busloads of people will head to Sallie Mae's annual shareholder meeting in Delaware to protest Sallie Mae's reprehensible business practices and overpaid CEO Albert Lord.Shareholder meetings are perfect opportunities for protest: they happen once a year, and the company's top executives are rubbing elbows with their shareholders. It's a lot of money in one spot -- money that is the direct result of high-interest loans and harassing phone calls to borrowers. Albert Lord, Sallie Mae's CEO, rakes in millions each year -- he has so much money that he built a private, 244-acre golf course for himself. Today is the day to put Albert Lord on notice.Since Rebuild the Dream members can't all attend the protest, we've created a virtual solidarity action -- and it's easy for you to do.
Why put Sallie Mae on notice?
How much money does Mr. Lord make off students? The Shareholder Committee granted Mr. Lord a bonus of $2.5 million in 2011 -- $1.25 million of which was in cash.In addition to making millions off of private student loans, Albert Lord has boldly claimed that the student loan debt bubble doesn't actually exist.From 2002 to today, Sallie Mae has spent $25,470,000 lobbying the federal government. Sallie Mae has been one of the most aggressive lobbyists in Washington, D.C. on issues impacting students and student debt, allowing them to continue to use predatory lending practices.Read Molly Katchpole's report on some of Sallie Mae's draconian collecting practices -- including encouraging debtors to sell their blood to pay for student loans.
Sallie Mae is the country's largest provider of private student loans -- and despite their innocuous name, they're guilty of some pretty awful practices.Sallie Mae has a dual role of a lender and collector. As Elizabeth Warren said, "Sallie Mae gets to play every hand at the poker table." And, “Student-loan debt collectors have power that would make a mobster envious."When customers call seeking assistance, Sallie Mae representatives say pretty terrible stuff -- a story from one of our members: "I encouraged my grandson to pursue a college degree, because I thought as a Black male, his chances of landing a decent paying job would be much improved. Since he graduated, he has been unable to find a job with a living wage. His paycheck barely covers the gas he needs to go to a low paying job, much less repay his student loans. Because I co-signed, I now use a great portion of my Social Security check to pay the loans. When I called Sallie Mae to work out a payment plan, the representative told me to tell my grandson to sell his plasma [i.e., his blood plasma] to pay the loan."As a debt collector, Sallie Mae is highly abusive, using the Freedom of Information Law to collect personal information about students from their schools, and contacting borrowers' employers, families, and neighbors, to the point of violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. One Rebuild the Dream member shared this story with us: "My son not been able to find a decent job, is barely making ends meet so has not been able to start paying his loans. He's talked to Sallie Mae regarding this but they continue to call him daily, including Saturday and Sunday. Then they started calling me daily since I was listed as a secondary contact. When I complained to their representative that this was harassment, I was informed that they can call each contact number up to eight times per day."Charges unnecessary and exploitative forbearance fees -- $50 per loan, per 3-month block -- essentially an "unemployment penalty"Successfully lobbied Congress to strip away basic consumer protections from student loans, such as bankruptcy protection on private student loans.Successfully lobbied Congress to obtain Draconian collections practices, including garnishment of wages, tax returns and federal benefits such as Social Security, without a court order to make it easier for them to harass.Angry yet? Click here to sign our petition telling Sallie Mae's CEO Albert Lord: Work with students -- not against them. We'll be delivering signatures next week at Sallie Mae's shareholder meeting in Delaware. Compiled with the help of our friend Rob Applebaum.