[A-List] Hero judge bounces check fees
cb31450 at gmail.com
Mon Aug 16 10:42:08 MDT 2010
Hero judge bounces check fees
A California judge is my new personal hero.
Not the wise and fair-minded U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker, who
overturned the state's odious gay marriage ban -- he's last week's
hero. Now it's the wise and fair-minded -- and obviously infuriated --
U.S. District Judge William Alsup who on Tuesday ordered Wells Fargo &
Co. to pay back $203 million in sleazy overdraft fees to bank
The judge called the bank's manipulation of account balances to create
extra overdraft fees "gouging and profiteering." His decision found
the bank's policy existed only to "squeeze as much as possible" from
I couldn't have said it better myself. But that's only because my
editor won't let me use the phrase "#$@&! &%@*! pond-scum."
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But I can use the phrase "lying putrid weasels," which applies to any
banker defending the widespread, grubby practices most banks apply to
clearing checks and handling overdrafts.
In the case of Wells Fargo, the bank introduced and obscured a policy
of clearing all checks, debits and debit-card purchases in the order
of largest amount to smallest, rather than in chronological order or
by check number. Most banks do this, "to better serve the customer,"
although any time I've asked them to prove it, they haven't produced a
shred of research to back up their claims.
What can be proven -- and was in California -- is that clearing the
largest transactions first is guaranteed to create more $35
insufficient funds charges if an account has several overdrafts in one
Worse, those high fees often were part of sneaky "courtesy" overdraft
protection plans whose terms were buried in the fine print of account
agreements. Besides costing more than other overdraft options, they
also allowed -- and charged -- overdrafts on debit cards. All I can
say is that Wells Fargo managers are lucky California doesn't have
Opt out now
Judge Alsup's decision is timely, since today is the first day bank
customers have a little protection. Thanks to new federal rules, your
bank now cannot process overdrafts (and charge you for the privilege)
on most of your debit or ATM card transactions unless you specifically
opt in for the service. Some banks have even gone so far as mounting
campaigns to scare customers into opting in, using names like "account
protection" and describing it as a "free" service. Which it is --
until you use it.
If you haven't opted out, call your bank and do so. Chances are it
offers cheaper and better overdraft coverage if you need it.
Meanwhile, here's to Judge Alsup, my new hero. Why, if I was a single
guy, I'd move to California and marry that man.
boconnor at detnews.com (313) 222-2145
>From The Detroit News:
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