DennisBeaverApril 7, 2017 • By Dennis Beaver

The bank took money from my account with no permission!

Just how secure is your checking account? Without notice to you or permission, could a bank empty your account, causing you to bounce checks and incur fees from the bank for bad checks?

In March of this year Beverly and Jim Duncan would learn the answer to that question. Their story begins five years ago when a Temp agency sent mechanic hubby to Southern San Joaquin Valley-based Bolthouse Farms. Impressed with his ability, about a year later, they hired him full time.

Fast forward to January, 2017. As a result of a class action suit filed against Bolthouse Farms alleging wage, hour and break-time violations, over 5600 present and former employees were entitled to receive compensation. Orange County California-based Simpluris Class Action Settlement Administration was retained to send out the checks.

First one check, then another and then no money in their account

By this time Jim had moved on from Bolthouse. In early February 2017, a check in the amount of $2,200 along with a W2 tax form arrived in the mail and was deposited into the couple’s Bank of America checking account. As he was initially working there through the temp agency, when a second check arrived a week later–with another W2– the couple assumed it represented the time Jim was an actual Bolthouse employee.

That second amount remained in their checking account until March 21st, 2017 when “something completely unbelievable happened,” as my tearful reader, Beverly Duncan explained. “Someone removed $2,200 from our checking account! All my outstanding checks are now going to bounce! I cannot use our ATM. I can’t buy gas for our car or food! What’s going on?”

The couple were blind-sided by a series of events which should never have happened, and, which in our legal opinion revealed a callous, uncaring, attitude by someone at the Bank of America who allowed this to occur without regard to the damage it would cause their very own customers, the Duncans.

What went wrong?

You and the Law were the first to bring this to the attention of Simpluris on March 21st and spoke with Jared Salinas who immediately took ownership of the problem. “Over 400 duplicate checks were sent out in error. We are mailing letters advising people who have received duplicate payment to not spend the money and that it must be returned.

“We do not want a Duncan-type situation, where the money is taken out of an account leaving bounced checks and families without the means to buy food. We want these people to have time to plan accordingly.”

But what really happened? Jared told us that one of his accounting staff had discovered the Duncan duplicate payment, and without seeking approval, contacted Simpluris’ bank and told them to notify Bank of America and obtain a refund, which is what B of A did without notice or permission of the Duncans.

You are no doubt wondering, “Can a bank legally do this?”

Your bank account has more holes in it than a swiss cheese

Every financial institution in the country has a Depository Agreement with customers covering “Returned Items,” and is designed to protect itself, not you.

Typical language states, “For any reason – without giving you an explanation or notice – we may reverse any item which we are told should not have been paid, for example, if it was a fraudulent check or issued by mistake. If you do not have enough money in your account to cover outstanding checks, we will charge you for NSF fees, overdraft protection, and we are not obligated to verify if there is any validity to the reason we are asked to refund a check to an issuing bank.”

Badly handled by Bank of America

“Thus was badly handled by Bank of America. This couple were victimized by their own bank,” Brandon Hernandez, a 13-year veteran business banker with Mission Bank of Bakersfield stated. Loyola Law School Professor Bryan Hull, agrees, commenting:

“It was completely wrong for the payor bank to reverse the charges and equally inappropriate for your readers’ bank to charge back the account. Correct procedure is to ask the people who receive it to pay them back, not use the banking system to accomplish that.”

An angel appears

The Duncan’s story doesn’t just have a happy ending, they in fact have an angel and her name is Senior Vice-President of Media Relations for Bank of America, Colleen Haggerty

We immediately notified her of the problem, and as she has before with a reader whose safe deposit box was somehow “lost” at a B of A Branch, Colleen and her assistant Amy took care of unwinding the damage caused the Duncans.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.