Sallie Mae faces claims of discrimination in student loans

January 24, 2008

No stranger to investigations and financial problems over the past year, student loan mega-lender Sallie Mae now faces charges that its lending practices discriminate against minority students. A suit filed Dec. 17 in federal district court in Connecticut alleges Sallie Mae violated federal civil rights and lending laws by intentionally targeting higher priced loans to students attending schools with high minority populations.

Tampa student Cathelyn Gregoire is one of two named plaintiffs in the possible class action lawsuit accusing the company of “systematic discriminatory practices” in marketing student loans to minority applicants.

Martha Holler, a spokeswoman for Sallie Mae, said the company would vigorously defend itself against the “unfounded allegations in this baseless complaint.”

But Christa Collins, the attorney going after Sallie Mae, is no rookie.

A managing partner in the Tampa firm of James, Hoyer, Newcomer and Smiljanich, she has made her reputation bringing down large companies accused of discriminatory practices.

Last year she reached a national settlement with Allstate Insurance Co. over allegations of unfair pricing, and in 2002 she reached a $160-million settlement with MetLife Inc.

And Collins said she has plenty of ammunition for her latest case.

“We’ve been contacted by hundreds of students or former students,” she said.
Original article St. Petersburg Times