The National Consumer Law Center on Monday sued the U.S. Department of Education as a result of the agency refusing to hand over documents detailing how the federal government awards bonuses to collection agencies it hires to pursue defaulted student loans.

The Education Department, according to court documents, argues that it can keep the documents private under an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act that protects "trade secrets" and certain commercial or financial information. The law center charges in the lawsuit that the Education Department violated the Act by withholding records concerning the performance and incentive pay for the government’s contracted debt collectors.

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