American Banker’s Jeff Horwitz finds some emails that offer an interesting look into how banks make unethical decisions to gouge their customers.
These are from Union Bank, which like lots of banks, artificially reordered checking account transactions to make bigger transactions clear first. That makes it more likely that the customer will rack up multiple overdrafts. There was pushback amongst bank executives internally who said it was just flat wrong to treat customers that way. But the banks’ bottom line ultimately won out.
Documents filed in the Union Bank case appear to paint a picture of an institution focused on maximizing fee revenue by using CAST’s technology while dismissing employee concerns that resequencing payments was unfair and possibly illegal. One bank employee argued high-to-low processing was harmful to “Poor but Honest” customers, according to an email sent from a colleague and cited in the amended complaint.
Bank documents turned over to plaintiff attorneys during discovery indicate Union Bank agreed that CAST would receive 20% of any extra overdraft charges generated under its high-to-low system. Union Bank employees also discussed how to hide the bank’s policy from customers, even as it was costing them tens of millions of dollars, internal emails show.
“By design, the details of what happens inside the bank when an overdraft occurs were never intended to be communicated to the public,” a Union Bank employee wrote to a colleague in an email cited in the suit…
“We should burn all our documentation that [says the only purpose of reordering payment] posting sequence = more fees,” an employee wrote in an exchange cited by class action attorneys.
This is a good find by Horwitz and AB. I’d guess that there might be another story in these guys:
Union Bank’s venture into high-to-low processing began in 2002, when it retained CAST, a consulting firm headed by Steve McCollum, a former Citigroup banker. CAST promotes itself on its website as an expert in “revenue optimization” based on a “database of proven revenue enhancement practices.” Its clients include Citibank, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and more than a dozen large regional banks
— Glenn Greenwald nails it on CNN’s condescending Wall Street apologist Erin Burnett:
On her new CNN show on Monday night, host Erin Burnett was joined by Rudy Giuliani’s former speechwriter John Avlon and together they heaped condescending scorn on the Wall Street protests while defending the banking industry, offering — as FAIR documented — several misleading statements along the way. Burnett “reported” that while she “saw dancing, bongo drums, even a clown” at the protest, the participants “did not know what they want,” except that “it seems like people want a messiah leader, just like they did when they anointed Barack Obama.” She featured a video clip of herself explaining to one of the protesters that the U.S. Government made money from TARP, and then demanded to know if that changed his negative views of Wall Street.
This is far from the first time Burnett has served as spokesperson for Wall Street; it’s basically what her “journalistic” career is. She angered Bill Maher a couple years ago when arguing that the rich have suffered along with the poor and middle class as part of the financial crisis, and that it would be wrong to “soak the rich” because they’re already paying so much taxes. She caused Rush Limbaugh to gush over her when she argued on TV in 2007 that all Americans benefit when the rich get richer: “the majority of Americans directly benefit from what happens on Wall Street,” she proclaimed, just over a year before the financial collapse…
Needless to say, Burnett and Kosik consider themselves to be opinion-free, objective “reporters.” Indeed, this is what Burnett said in the Vantiy Fair interview when asked if she sympathizes too much with the Wall Street plutocrats on whom she purports to report: “My job isn’t to give an opinion but to try and explain what’s happening.” But just like Andrew Ross Sorkin and his protection of and subservience to his “CEO-of-a-major-bank” friend, these people are oozing bias and opinion from every pore of their being. They are so devoted to and immersed in the insular oligarchical world of which they are desperate to be a part that they know and care about nothing else. Expecting them to provide objective, critical assessments of business elites is like expecting a heroin addict to rat out his dealer.