Navy Federal Credit Union has been ordered to pay $23 million to victims of improper debt collection activites. It was also ordered to pay a $5.5 million fine by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The CFPB said Navy Federal made false threats about debt collection and unfairly restricted account access when members had a delinquent loan.
“Navy Federal Credit Union misled its members about its debt collection practices and froze consumers out from their own accounts,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Financial institutions have a right to collect money that is due to them, but they must comply with federal laws as they do so.”
Navy Federal Credit Union is a federal credit union based in Vienna, Va. Membership is limited to consumers who are, or have been, U.S. military servicemembers, Department of Defense civilian employees or contractors, government employees assigned to Department of Defense installations, and their immediate family members. It is the largest credit union in the country, with more than $73 billion in assets as of December 2015.
The CFPB investigation found that Navy Federal deceived consumers to get them to pay delinquent accounts. The credit union falsely threatened severe actions when, in fact, it seldom took such actions or did not have authorization to take them.
It said the credit union also cut off members’ electronic access to their accounts and bank cards if they did not pay overdue loans. Hundreds of thousands of consumers were affected by these practices, which occurred between January 2013 and July 2015.