Home > News & Events > U.S. Department of Education taps Aaron Lacey to help negotiate rewrite of controversial ‘borrower defense’ rule

U.S. Department of Education taps Aaron Lacey to help negotiate rewrite of controversial ‘borrower defense’ rule

November 1, 2017

The U.S. Department of Education has selected Thompson Coburn partner Aaron Lacey to serve as one of 17 negotiators charged with reworking a complex and controversial Obama-era regulation commonly referred to as the “borrower defense” rule. 

Aaron will join a group that includes student and consumer advocates, agency representatives, accreditors, financial aid administrators, and business officers, as well as representatives from different types of institutions of higher education. The U.S. Department of Education selected Aaron to represent and negotiate on behalf of general counsels, attorneys and compliance officers at postsecondary institutions nationwide.

A partner in Thompson Coburn’s higher education practice, Aaron is also the editorial director of REGucation, the firm’s blog dedicated to legal and regulatory issues affecting postsecondary education. He has written and spoken extensively about the borrower defense rule, including a series of popular webinars and speaking engagements at several national conferences of higher education administrators. 

“I’m deeply honored to represent higher education’s risk managers at the negotiating table,” said Aaron. “While the conversation concerning the borrower defense rule has often centered around its impact on for-profit institutions, the regulation imposes substantial obligations on institutions in all sectors, including public, private non-profit, and private for-profit institutions.”

Among other things, the borrower defense rule introduced a streamlined process for borrowers to seek loan discharge based on institutional misconduct, expanded financial responsibility standards, required the elimination of pre-dispute arbitration agreements in contracts with students, revised closed-school and false certification discharge provisions, and included a new repayment rate for proprietary schools. 

“I look forward to cooperating with the other negotiators to facilitate a final rule that is fair and workable for students and institutions alike,” Aaron said. 

The negotiated rulemaking process will be overseen by the U.S. Department of Education, with assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Negotiators will participate in three rounds of negotiation in D.C., each lasting three or four days. The rounds are scheduled to take place in November, January, and February, respectively. Thompson Coburn’s higher education practice will be reporting on the progress of the negotiated rulemaking throughout 2017 and 2018.

About Thompson Coburn

Thompson Coburn is a full-service law firm with 380 attorneys practicing in more than 50 areas of law. With offices in offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Southern Illinois, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., the firm was named a top 30 law firm in the nation for exceptional client service in 2017 by BTI Consulting, the country’s leading provider of strategic research to law firms and general counsel.