Another day, another Trump administration official caught enriching themselves and / or associates and family members close to them. This time the culprit is billionaire Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
According to the Washington Post, “A company that once had financial ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was one of two firms selected Thursday by the Education Department to help the agency collect overdue student loans. The deal could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.”
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The decision to award contracts to Windham Professionals and Performant Financial Corp. — a company DeVos invested in before becoming secretary — arrives a month after a federal judge ordered the department to complete its selection of a loan collector to put an end to a messy court battle.
The two companies were selected over 40 other firms who submitted bids for the federal contracts estimated to be worth over $400 million. Many of those companies are expected to appeal the decision, which could throw the awards to Windham and Performant into jeopardy.
“Based on prior contract awards, we would not be surprised to see protests, lawsuits and appeals which could all delay the start date for the new contract,” Michael Tarkan, a senior research analyst wrote in a research note on one of the two companies.
Not only do DeVos’ ties to the companies selected cause some alarm, the number of companies selected to conduct debt collection has raised eyebrows. In the past, the Department of Education has used as many as 17 companies to pursue outstanding student loans, and 7 companies were selected in a 2016 contract offering under President Obama.
Both Performant and the Department of Education have denied any collusion in the deal. A spokesperson for Secretary DeVos said that she had “no knowledge, let alone involvement” in awarding the contract.
But consolidating the contracts to just two companies, when one of them so closely connected to the woman in charge, is an unprecedented and wildly hubristic move. Or put another way, it’s just another day at the office for the Trump administration.