ADVISORY: Hearing Scheduled for Wednesday on Deposition of Former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

October 4, 2021

Biden Administration Continues to Fight Federal Court Order Requiring DeVos to Give 3-hour Deposition on Illegal Actions Surrounding ED’s Borrower Defense Policies

 

BOSTON – Student borrowers on Wednesday will argue in a federal appeals court hearing that a subpoena to depose former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the class action lawsuit Sweet v. Cardona (formerly Sweet v. DeVos) must proceed. The Biden administration is appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to quash the subpoena, after Northern District of California Judge Alsup already denied its previous motion to quash and ordered the former Secretary to submit to a 3-hour deposition via Zoom to account for the Education Department’s illegal actions surrounding borrower defense.

 

Borrowers recently filed an amended complaint detailing alarming new evidence that the U.S. Department of Education not only illegally delayed processing borrower defense claims, but created a sham process designed to deny borrowers debt relief regardless of evidence. They are asking DeVos to explain the reason for the Department of Education’s documented refusal to process the borrower defense claims of more than 170,000 student borrowers who were cheated by their schools, as well as the thousands of form denial letters that the Department issued last year.

 

The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, October 6th at 9am Pacific Time / 12pm Eastern Time at the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

 

The public may watch the hearing at: https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/live-oral-arguments/

 

“The evidence gathered in this case shows that the borrower defense process under Betsy DeVos was a sham,” said Eileen Connor, Director of the Project on Predatory Student Lending. “We represent tens of thousands of defrauded borrowers who have been waiting as long as 5 years for justice on borrower defense, yet Betsy DeVos refuses to spend 3 hours telling us what she knows about the Department’s unlawful delay in processing their borrower defense applications. As Judge Alsup found, this deposition is essential for our clients, as well as the public, to understand how this sham process happened and to ensure that it can never happen again.”

 

CASE BACKGROUND:

Judge William Alsup has already slammed DeVos’ blanket denials of borrower defense claims and rejected a proposed settlement in the case in an October 2020 ruling. The judge allowed the borrowers to take depositions of other officials from the Department of Education, but at that time, put off the question of deposing DeVos. Those already deposed include:

  • Diane Auer Jones, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary
  • Colleen Nevin, Director of Borrower Defense at Federal Student Aid (FSA)
  • Mark Brown, Chief Operating Officer of FSA
  • James Manning, former Acting Under Secretary of Education and former Acting Chief Operating Officer of FSA

None of the officials deposed have been able to explain the Department’s actions on borrower defense. They could not answer questions about the form denial letters, nor could they explain the Department’s years-long delay in reviewing borrower defense applications. Ms. Auer Jones, for example, insisted that she “did not know” who signed off on the blanket denial letters. Regarding the delays, Ms. Nevin suggested that borrower defense decisions could have been made sooner, but the choice of inaction was “related to a decision up the food chain.”

Borrowers argue that DeVos is the only person who can answer the court’s questions, and Judge Alsup agreed. The Department of Justice is now seeking extraordinary relief from the Ninth Circuit to stop the deposition from happening.

The borrowers are represented by the Project on Predatory Student Lending of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School and Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA).

For more information about Sweet v. Cardona, click here.

 

About the Project on Predatory Student Lending

Established in 2012, the Project on Predatory Student Lending represents former students of predatory for-profit colleges. Its mission is to litigate to make it legally and financially impossible for federally-funded predatory schools to cheat students and taxpayers. The Project has brought a wide variety of cases on behalf of former students of for-profit colleges. It has sued the federal Department of Education for its failures to meet its legal obligation to police this industry and stop the perpetration and collection of fraudulent student loan debt.

 

About HERA

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA) is a California statewide, not-for-profit legal service and advocacy organization dedicated to helping Californians — particularly those most vulnerable — build a safe, sound financial future, free of discrimination and economic abuses, in all aspects of household financial concerns. It provides free legal services, consumer workshops, training for professionals and community organizing support, creates innovative solutions and engages in policy work locally, statewide and nationally.