NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bank of America Corp has been hit with a proposed class action accusing it of charging exorbitant fees to thousands of former Arizona prison inmates who were issued debit cards when they were released.
Filed on Thursday in federal court in Phoenix, the lawsuit accused the bank of exploiting “one of the most vulnerable groups imaginable” – individuals coming out of prison without a job or sometimes even a place to go.The prepaid cards are issued to prisoners to return money confiscated when they were arrested or that they earned through work programs.Prisoners are given no choice other than the fee-laden cards to obtain their own money from inmate accounts, the complaint said. Charges include some that ordinary consumers would not have to pay, such as $15 to withdraw money at a bank teller window, the complaint said.”They get charged a fee just to walk up to a teller to find out how much money they have in their accounts,” said Richard Golomb, lead counsel for the ex-prisoners. The fees are based on a debit card contract “that they never agreed to and never signed,” he said.
Representatives of Bank of America and the Arizona Department of Corrections could not immediately be reached for comment.
After Wells Fargo & Co. executive John Sotoodeh handed off more than a hundred branches in Southern California to a colleague in 2009, problems surfaced quickly.
His successor, Kim Young, addressing rumors that some employees were opening bogus accounts, called an introductory meeting with staff and warned she wouldn’t tolerate misconduct. Within a few days, managers recall, sales crumbled across her new turf.
Sotoodeh, who started as a teller in 1990, has since climbed even higher. He’s now one of three regional chiefs running the firm’s nationwide consumer-banking empire. Young spent the final years of her four-decade career at Wells Fargo weeding out bad employees, retiring in 2014.
In interviews, more than a dozen past and current Wells Fargo employees — many of them senior managers — chronicled how a generation of executives thrived in its ambitious sales culture, winning accolades and promotions, while being held aloft as examples to colleagues. All the while, people under them were opening legions ofunwanted accounts for customers.
As Wells Fargo grew, some stars fanned out from Southern California, described by colleagues and in congressional testimony as a focal point of the rampant misconduct, spreading a culture that lionized boosting sales.