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DFPI Sanctions Former PACE Solicitor Under California’s New Consumer Financial Protection Law



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SACRAMENTO – The Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) today permanently barred James Jacob Berry and any company he owns or controls from seeking future enrollment as a PACE solicitor’s agent or PACE solicitor, after finding that Berry and his three companies misled consumers by marketing their product as a “no-cost” government-funded program.

The companies, which include a former PACE solicitor disenrolled by its program administrator, would have fallen outside the regulatory oversight of the Department prior to the passage of the California Consumer Financial Protection Law (CCFPL), which took effect Jan. 1, 2021. Berry and his companies evaded PACE laws by using an unenrolled company to advertise and solicit consumers for PACE financing.

“The new law allows us to fill gaps in PACE regulation and oversight so we can better protect consumers from misinformation and outright lies,” said DFPI Commissioner Manuel P. Alvarez. “This action today shows our intent to vigorously protect Californians against improper PACE solicitors.”

The DFPI entered into a consent order with Berry and his companies: Community Solar Inc., doing business as Premier Community Construction; PACE Consulting Agency Inc., doing business as The PACE Program of California; and PACE Marketing & Communications after finding that Berry and his companies evaded PACE laws by using an unenrolled company to advertise and solicit consumers for PACE financing.

In addition to barring Berry, the DFPI ordered Berry and his companies to stop offering PACE financing to consumers and to stop using “PACE” in its business names, websites, marketing materials, or communications.

In the action against Berry and his companies, the DFPI found that The PACE Program of California offered and sold PACE financing to consumers without enrolling with a PACE program administrator. Berry and his companies also failed to provide clear and accurate information to consumers about how PACE financing works, and misled consumers about their relationships with public agencies, lenders, PACE program administrators, and each other.

As detailed in the DFPI’s order, Berry and his companies are charged with misleading California consumers by engaging in unfair and deceptive marketing tactics that offered “no-cost” government-funded PACE projects. The order also outlines how Berry deceived homeowners by making it appear that The PACE Program of California was a California government agency or affiliate through its website and mailers to Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County homeowners.

Even though a PACE administrator disenrolled Community Solar Inc. and Berry last year, Berry continued to use the PACE name in his other business and on his company websites. Before the California Consumer Financial Protection Law went into effect, the DFPI did not have the authority to pursue actions against unenrolled individuals.

PACE is a financing program that allows homeowners to finance certain clean energy projects such as solar panels, water heaters, and windows. PACE financing is funded by private lenders and is secured by a lien on the property, but public agencies facilitate PACE financing by adding a special assessment to the homeowner’s property tax. If the homeowner does not pay the special assessment, the lender can enforce the lien, including through foreclosure.

The DFPI licenses and regulates PACE program administrators, but because the DFPI is not authorized to license PACE solicitors and PACE solicitor agents, PACE customers should check to make sure that anyone offering them PACE financing is enrolled with a California-licensed program administrator by visiting the DFPI website at Consumers should also ask the program administrator about the enrollment status of the solicitor and agent, and any complaints filed against them.

The DFPI continues to investigate fraudulent practices by those involved in PACE financing. If you currently have or have been offered PACE financing for your home improvement project and believe that you have been a victim of unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices, please contact the DFPI at (866) 275-2677 or More information regarding PACE financing can be found at

In addition to regulating PACE administrators, the DFPI licenses and regulates financial products and services, including state-chartered banks and credit unions, student loan servicers, commodities and investment advisers, money transmitters, the offer and sale of securities and franchises, broker-dealers, non-bank installment lenders, payday lenders, mortgage lenders and servicers, escrow companies, debt collectors, rent-to-own contractors, credit repair companies,  consumer credit reporting agencies, debt-relief companies, and more.

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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