As a result of working in the defense industry, I’m very cognizant (as is anyone who works in this industry) of the impropriety of any sort of kickback, whether it’s something minor like lunch or something huge like … a job. However, kickbacks are a way of life in the private sector and so it’s always surprising when you see a story about something semi-private get busted for accepting kickbacks. In the last year, you’ve seen lots of 401k plan administrators come under the microscope for accepting kickbacks for offering certain funds… but most recently, it look like eight universities have been settled allegations  for accepting “payments, travel and other perks” from lenders.
My fiancee used to work at L’Oreal in their purchasing department (she was a trained biomedical and chemical engineer, but go figure how big companies do business) and would get free lunches all the time from vendors selling things like labels and plastic bottle caps (she worked in hair coloring). I spent a few months working as a materials manager (rotational program and that rotation, not doing software development, was probably the best rotation I ever had…) and had to be very cautious in accepting anything from anyone because kickbacks are a huge no-no and being caught accepting one had serious repercussions.
I only had government backed loans (Stafford, Perkins) in college but this probe investigates the “private” loans, those that aren’t backed by the government, and so it’s appropriate that universities don’t receive kickbacks for offering a particular bank’s loan – especially if that loan isn’t in the best interests of the students. I didn’t even know that universities accepted kickbacks but I think that was naive of me. If there is every a gray area and an opportunity to exploit it, someone will until an attorney general shuts it down (way to go New York! Eliot Spitzer really set the tone… and now Andrew Cuomo is continuing the tradition).
I’m glad someone with visibility into these types of issues is able to watch the consumer’s back.
The writer of Blueprint for Financial Prosperity will accept kickbacks in the form of “payments, travel and other perks” and it is not illegal for me to do so. So please, someone send me two tickets to somewhere warm and sunny.