By Katie Reilly
July 17, 2017

Tens of thousands of people who have been unable to pay off their private student loans could see their debts erased due to missing paperwork and incomplete ownership records.

The National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, one of the largest owners of private student loans in the United States, is at the center of a legal dispute over at least $5 billion in loans, the New York Times reported on Monday. Judges have dismissed dozens of lawsuits brought by National Collegiate against student borrowers because the former lacked the documentation to prove that it owns the loans, according to the Times.

National Collegiate — which includes 15 trusts that hold 800,000 private student loans — has brought tens of thousands of lawsuits in the past five years against borrowers who have fallen behind on their loan payments. The trusts hold loans totaling $12 billion, and more than $5 billion of that is in default, according to court filings analyzed by the Times.

The loans held by National Collegiate were originally made by banks and then sold to investors, but ownership records were lost in the process.

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