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Student Loan Managers merged with a second company to form United Advisors Group, which agreed to pay more than $85,000 in refunds to Washington consumers under terms of a 2016 consent decree.
United Advisors agreed, in a separate 2016 settlement with Vermont’s attorney general, to pay a fine and refunds and to stop doing business in that state.
The agreements left the California company free to continue operating in Washington within legal limits, and in all other states except Vermont.
United Advisors reached the Washington settlement after the state attorney general prepared to file a lawsuit accusing the company of charging illegally high fees, failing to provide required consumer notifications, and engaging in unfair or deceptive practices.
The company charged nearly $1,000 in upfront fees — far above the $25 maximum allowed under Washington state law, the state alleged in a complaint filed in King County Superior Court in preparation for a lawsuit.
The subsequent settlement filed in the same court required United Advisors to void all existing debt-adjustment contracts with Washington consumers. The consent decree required the company to destroy customers’ confidential information in its possession.
The Vermont assurance of discontinuance came after the attorney general accused the company of a series of misdeeds, including failure to apply customer payments toward their debts.
“UAG entered Vermont consumers into debt deferral programs, collected fees and payments without paying those amounts to any program,” the assurance document said, “and caused consumers to amass interest while believing the debts to be in payment, without disclosing either the inaction or consequence to consumers.”
At the time of this Watch List posting, the Better Business Bureau had given United Advisors Group an “F” rating.
- In Washington, United Advisors agreed to return more than $85,000 to about 200 customers in the state, according to the consent decree. In the decree, United Advisors did not admit to allegations in the complaint filed previously by the attorney general, and denied any and all wrongdoing. The company agreed in addition to pay the state more than $14,000 for attorneys’ fees, costs and enforcement.
- In Vermont, United Advisors Group was fined $6,500 and ordered to return about $5,000 to 12 customers under the assurance of discontinuance agreement filed in court. In the agreement, the attorney general also said the company had failed to obtain a required state debt-adjuster license. The attorney general settled instead of taking action against the company, which did not admit violating state or federal laws. He reserved the right to apply to the court for orders necessary to enforce compliance or punish any violations.
- What the company claims to provide: Student loan debt management
Based: Mission Viejo, California
Sources: Vermont attorney general’s office; Washington state attorney general’s office; King County Superior Court, Seattle; California business records, Better Business Bureau.