Tag Archives: banking in Dickinson North Dakota

Why Companies Have Become Corrupt And Unethical

In my previous blog post, I wrote about going to a branch of Dakota Community Bank in Dickinson where I have a checking account, and asking a banker if someone stole a check out of my checkbook, forged my signature, and wrote out a check payable to themselves or someone else, would the Bank reimburse me when I discovered the money was missing from my account.  The banker replied, “No”.

I thought that I knew the law, but I wanted to see what banks in Dickinson thought the law was, and how they would handle fraudulent transactions on my account.  Though I was shocked at the banker’s response, I was afraid that that is what it would be.  I needed to know this, because now I know what to expect from this Bank if something goes wrong, denial of liability, and a fight with the Bank.

It turns out that banks are governed and regulated by a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury called “The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency” or the OCC for short.  The OCC says that banks are liable for reimbursement of forged checks, however there are a couple of pleas that banks use to try to get out of this liability.

In this blog post, I want to tell a story that was probably my first introduction to the institutional practice of large companies denying legal liability, in situations where they absolutely have legal liability, and their reasons for this tactic.

Almost twenty years ago, I was working for an elderly man who had at one time been the vice president of one of the largest commercial insurers in the U.S., I believe that he said it was USF&G.  One day, he wanted to tell me this story:

His company, USF&G, had a client whose parked vehicle was struck by a person driving another vehicle.  The parked vehicle was completely destroyed in the accident.  The driver of the other vehicle was insured, but his insurance company delayed and delayed paying for the damage.

At the vice president level, he did not normally handle the day-to-day business of individual accidents and insurance claims, but this particular case had risen through the different management levels at USF&G, because the other insurance company was delaying, refusing to pay for the damage to the USF&G client’s vehicle.

He got on the telephone with someone at or nearly at the level of vice president at the other insurance company and he said, “Look, you have no legal basis for not paying this claim, why won’t you pay this claim?”  The person at the other insurance company, with pride and satisfaction gave the following reply:

“We have found, that when there is an individual who is elderly in age, like your client, when there is an accident and they are owed money, if we delay and wait in paying the claim, often times they will die due to old age.”

The former vice president of USF&G said that the following day, a memorandum was issued to all departments at USF&G, stating that if anyone was ever caught trying to not pay a claim because the claimant was elderly in age, they would be out of a job.

Since hearing this story, I have read several newspaper stories over the years, where large banks and utility companies deny legal liability, because they have so many employees, so many millions in assets, and full time legal staff, that they feel that they don’t have to follow the law or treat customers in compliance with the law.

I have written before about newspaper stories where utility company customers enrolled in automatic bill pay have had all of the money taken out of their checking account for erroneous $10,000 water bills or electric bills.  The frantic customer contacts the utility company about the charges being a mistake, and explains that their normal water bill or electric bill is only $100 each month, how could they possibly have a $10,000 bill for the month?

In these cases, the utility company often sends the following response:  “Dear Customer, we have received your letter contesting the charges to your account.  We have conducted an internal investigation, and we can not find any error on our part.  The charges are correct, and are currently due.  Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.”

I have also written about newspaper stories where all of a bank customer’s money has been removed from their checking account through an erroneous debit card transaction, often for fuel at a gas station.  A debit for $8,000 worth of gasoline will appear on a customer’s account for one fuel stop at a gas station.  The customer will call the bank and explain that the charges are false, their vehicle fuel tank only holds $60 worth of gas.

In some cases, the gas station will side with the customer, saying that there is no way that this customer received $8,000 worth of gas, and the bank’s response is, “The charges have been approved, and they have gone through.  There is nothing that we can do at this time.”

Recently, a friend of mine who just turned sixty, he has been complaining to me about the tactics that he feels Sanford Health Care is using to deny him surgery.  About a year ago, he enrolled in Sanford Health Care medical insurance.  As part of this insurance plan, you are required to receive treatment at Sanford Health Care.

There are two different surgeries that he needs, he is almost always in pain due to his medical condition.  Though the medical doctors that have evaluated him, acknowledge that he has these specific medical problems that require surgery, he has been delayed and denied surgery.

When answering questions that the medical doctors have asked him, he did not know that they were seeking reasons to delay and deny him surgery.  In particular, they asked him, “How many days of work have you missed due to this medical condition?”  And he replied, “None”.

The reason why my friend replied none, is because he can’t miss work, he is not allowed to miss work.  I know the situation that my friend is in, and I know for a fact, without any doubt, that if he tried to not show up for work more than twice, that he would be out of a job.  The medical doctors took his response that he has missed no work, to mean that his condition does not require surgery at this time, when that is not the case at all, he is not allowed to miss work, and he is in pain all the time.

The other thing that my friend thinks that Sanford Health Care is doing to him, is delaying surgery in the hope and expectation that he will just die.

In the examples that I have just given about the banks, insurance companies, and utility companies, they have so many employees, so many millions of dollars in assets, and full time legal staff, that they are insulated and protected from caring, from guilt, from remorse, from responsibility, from personal legal liability and recourse.

The employees of these companies all go home at night and eat dinner, watch TV, and go to sleep without guilt, shame, or remorse, feeling no responsibility for taking all of someone else’s money, refusing to pay people money that they are owed, or denying people medical care that they need.  In fact, many of these employees are celebratory and proud of themselves for the money that they have saved their companies from paying, though legally they should have paid.

Getting The White Trash Treatment Again At Dakota Community Bank

To begin with, I want to say that all of the Bank Tellers at every Dakota Community Bank branch that I have been to, have always been very professional, competent, friendly, quick, and helpful.

Also, the several times that I have met and spoken to the Branch Manager at Dakota Community Bank, they have been professional, cordial, knowledgeable, and honest with me.

However, I don’t like it when I am given the “White Trash” treatment, being treated like I am a dumb, ignorant, uneducated, poor, know-nothing, which has happened to me twice at Dakota Community Bank.

The first time that this happened, was when I was opening a checking account with Dakota Community Bank a couple of years ago.  I was told that the Bank had to perform a credit check on me before I could open an account with them.  I was about 48 years old at the time, I currently had four different checking and savings accounts with three other banks, and I had never, ever, been told that I needed to have my credit checked in order to open an account at a bank.

At this time, when I was reading and selecting the options for this checking account with Dakota Community Bank, I asked, “This debit card, is this an additional service, or does this come with this checking account?”  The Bank employee said, “If you are denied for your checking account, you will be denied for the debit card too?”  That was not what I was asking, every other bank account that I had automatically provided an ATM/debit card with the account, I was trying to ask if this was a separate service, because this appeared to be called out separately.  I was insulted and angry about this talk of me being denied a checking account.

Today, I went into a Dakota Community Bank branch, to ask some questions about getting a safety deposit box.  I wanted to ask about box size, and fees, but I had other questions too.  I said to the Bank Teller that I wanted speak to someone in an office, I didn’t want to ask my questions out in the lobby where everyone could hear me.

In hindsight, I think that the person who I ended up speaking with, was probably the same woman that I was unhappy with two years ago when I opened my checking account, when I first received the “White Trash” treatment.

I explained that I had some questions.  Because I live by myself, I had gotten into the habit of leaving car titles laying out in my apartment, and leaving my checkbooks out in my apartment, not locked up.  Even though I had something that was large and heavy that I use as a safe, two people could probably carry it off, so even if I locked up my extra car keys, car titles, extra checkbooks, and cash, it could just be carried off when I wasn’t home.

I then asked a question about something that had been bothering me for a while.  I was afraid that banks would probably be dodgy and evasive in answering this question, and how they would handle the situation that I was going to ask about.  I asked, “If someone was in my apartment while I was at work, and they removed a check from the back of my checkbook where I would not notice, forged my name, and wrote out a check payable to themselves or someone else, would your Bank reimburse me for this loss when I discovered it?”  Her reply was “No”.

I was in disbelief, though I had feared that I would be given an answer like this from a bank.  When I took a Business Law class in high school, I am pretty sure that this is where I learned that banks are liable for forged checks.  I was also pretty sure that I had at one point looked up this law.

My belief and understanding was, that part of the banking industry practice, was to authenticate an account holder’s signature on checks, and that if a fraud was committed, the bank would assume liability, reimburse the erroneously paid funds to the account holder, and that the bank would pursue legal action against the person who perpetrated the fraud.  The bank is insured for this type of fraud, it is part of the cost of doing business, it has staff and expertise in discovering and pursuing this type of fraud.

I tried to explain that I had had the belief that banks were liable for forged checks, and that this was part of the FDIC insurance program that banks were enrolled in.  She replied, no, FDIC insurance only covers account holders when banks become insolvent.

This is what I was worried about, that banks and bank employees would try to deny that the bank was liable for forged checks, even though the law says otherwise.  Though I expected that this could happen, I didn’t know if it would be from ignorance of the law, or a deliberate attempt to deny liability, refuse to pay, stonewall the customer, wear him down, and make him give up.

I had for many, many years, left my checkbooks in my briefcase inside my vehicle when I went to work, went out to eat, and often overnight when my vehicle was parked out on the street.  I was confident that I would be reimbursed for stolen and forged checks.  However, I have seen so many wrong things going on in Dickinson and North Dakota, that I was suspicious about how banks and bank employees in Dickinson would handle stolen and forged checks.

Stop and think about this, if anyone at any time could get a blank check out of the middle of your checkbook, write a check and forge your name, and take all the money out of your checking or savings account, and the bank would not reimburse you for this theft when you discovered it, why would you even keep money in a checking or savings account?  Do you think that you as an individual would have any chance recovering the stolen money from the forger after it was spent?  This is what banks have a fraud department and insurance for.

When I got home, I looked up on the internet, “are banks liable for forged checks”, and eight out of the eight sites that I have looked at so far, say that yes, banks are liable for reimbursing account holders for forged checks.  Here are some sites that you can go look at and see for yourself:

https://pocketsense.com/liable-forged-checks-11972.html

https://budgeting.thenest.com/liable-forged-checks-24116.html

https://www.sapling.com/6190100/liable-forged-checks

https://business.laws.com/negotiable-instruments/banks-and-customers/forged-signature-on-checks

If you looked at and read any of the above links which are supposed to answer the question about banks being liable for forged checks, you would see that although banks are liable for reimbursing account holders for forged checks, banks can try the legal plea that they were “acting in good faith” and “used diligence” in order to try to get out of repaying account holders.

So what is the truth?  The truth is, that all national banks in the U.S. are governed and regulated by a branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury called “The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency”:

“The OCC charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations as well as federal branches and agencies of foreign banks. The OCC is an independent bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.”

“To ensure that national banks and federal savings associations operate in a safe and sound manner, provide fair access to financial services, treat customers fairly, and comply with applicable laws and regulations.”

To find the absolute definitive answer to my question, the OCC answered this question on this link: https://www.helpwithmybank.gov/get-answers/bank-accounts/forgery-and-fraud/faq-banking-fraud-02.html :

Financial institutions are generally required to reimburse customers for forged checks. However, based on individual circumstances, the bank can investigate to determine if the customer is entitled to a reimbursement.

Whether the bank is liable for the customer’s loss depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Generally, a bank is liable for accepting a check that has been forged, altered, or improperly endorsed. However, if the bank can prove two things—that it accepted the check in good faith and exercised ordinary care and diligence in handling the transaction—it may not be liable.

If your actions—the way the check or checkbook was handled, issued, completed, or made payable—contributed to the making of the forgery, you may be at least partially liable. Generally, the bank will require you to complete an affidavit. It may also request that you file a police report.”

Further, if you have any problems with a bank failing to reimburse you for a forged check, no matter what the bank claims, the OCC wants you to contact them at Phone: (800) 613-6743.  I called this number and I spoke to an agent, even though I told the agent that I did not want to file a complaint against Dakota Community Bank at this time,  I just wanted to get some information, they still insisted that I give them all of my personal information and the bank name and location for their records.

Again, why is Dakota Community Bank treating me like stupid, ignorant, uneducated, poor, know-nothing White Trash, telling me that banks aren’t liable for forged checks?  This lets me know, that Dakota Community Bank is probably going to do everything it can to not reimburse customers for fraudulent transactions, regardless of what the law says.  You will probably have a fight on your hands with the Bank if anything goes wrong.

Unfortunately, what is happening with large companies now, whether they are insurance companies, utility companies, credit card companies, or banks, they will take all the money out of your account, allow all of the money to be taken out of your account, or fail to pay money that they owe you, and just laugh at you, because they are a large corporation with millions of dollars in assets and full-time attorneys on staff, and you are just an ordinary person, what can you do to them?  An individual could spend all of their time and money going through the legal system against a large company and not get anywhere.

Banking In Dickinson, North Dakota

I have had bank accounts with First Union, SunTrust, Wachovia, Bank of America, Zions, Washington Federal, and Wells Fargo. Over the twenty seven years of having bank accounts, I have had a few small problems with banks. A 35 year old teller with Bank of America put my deposit into someone else’s account, I saw it on my deposit receipt as I was walking away, I turned right around and she realized what she did, and she fixed it. I was not mad at her at all, because she had always been so helpful and cordial.

When I opened an account at Zions Bank, I explained very clearly that I wanted all mail related to my account to go to my P.O. Box, not to my house, that I hated to even give them my home address. I explained that my house was in a rural area, and that my mailbox was down at the paved road with six other mail boxes. Zions Bank assured me that they would not send anything to my home address, then Zions Bank began mailing things to my home address.

I have had a few other small problems with banks. I have talked to friends and acquaintances about banking problems, and I have read about major problems other people have had with banks. A friend of mine with a CDL drove for a trucking company in Dickinson for two weeks, received a check for $1,400, deposited it, and got $200 cash back. The trucking company check bounced, and the bank wanted the $200 back from my friend, which he did not have. This is some of what I want to talk about, banking in Dickinson.

Whenever I would go to the Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson, every customer at each teller, always appeared to be having problems. It was not a matter of going to the teller that didn’t have problems, it was a matter of getting the teller who only had problems for about four minutes, rather than ten minutes. When I was in line at Wells Fargo in Dickinson, it was like being at a border crossing. It was worse than being at the Department of Motor Vehicles, because the DMV has laws that you can count on, whereas at Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson, there was no telling what was going to happen.

More than once, as I was waiting in line at Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson, wondering what in the world could be taking so long to complete these people’s transactions, a man of about 45 years would say to a teller, “I have done business with banks in many different states, including Wells Fargo. I don’t know what it is about this bank, but I always have problems at this bank. Now, I have another bank that I can take this check to, but you have got something wrong here.”   I was thinking the exact same thing. About three times I called Wells Fargo Bank and explained what was happening to everyone at this bank in Dickinson, and I was told, “Do not hesitate to call if you have something go wrong at this bank, when Wells Fargo Bank receives enough complaints about this bank, then something will be done about it.”

To my amazement, Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson suddenly got about four really good, sharp, quick thinking tellers that had no problems. I believed that Wells Fargo might have hand picked some of the best tellers from elsewhere and offered them more money to come to Dickinson, this was about mid 2014. Things went much better at Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson for about a year. Then, one really good teller moved away, one really good teller got promoted to a desk, one really good teller went to manage a Western store, leaving about two good tellers. I love the two good tellers, but I kept getting “the young witch” and “the slug”. With the young witch, I presented a Wells Fargo check from the state of Idaho payable to me, for a small amount, which she could not cash after about five minutes of trying, so I took it from her, and tore it up and gave it back to her, since she put a hex on this check. With the slug, I can hand her both a check and a completed deposit slip, and she will say, “Are you wanting to cash this check?”

I can’t handle Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson. I begin to have anxiety and apprehension as I drive to Wells Fargo Bank, with the intention of depositing a two week pay check. I just expect to have problems, and I need to get that money into my checking account. I have sometimes turned my truck around thinking, “I can’t deal with this shit today, I am just going to go cash this at Dakota Community Bank.”.

At the Dakota Community Bank by WalMart, I have had way way less trouble than Wells Fargo Bank, and I don’t even have an account at Dakota Community Bank! Recently, my room mate was out of town, a check came in the mail for him, he told me to take it to Dakota Community Bank and just hand it to them, they would deposit it, and get a receipt from them. They did it, no problem! At Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson where I have an account, I can’t even get them to cash a Wells Fargo check from the state of Idaho, payable to me!

I contacted Dakota Community Bank in Dickinson by telephone, and explained to the person why I wanted to open a checking account, I was having so many problems with Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson. I explained that I absolutely did not want to have any banking mail sent to my home in Idaho, because I’m not there. After everything was agreed upon, and I told her when I would be there, she said she was leaving, someone else would help me. I was very very angry, I said, “Listen, I just got done explaining several things to you so that you know and understand. I didn’t want to come to the bank without first explaining what I wanted. I wasn’t just trying to waste my time.”  She said, “We have someone who has been here two months who can help you open your account.” I said, “No, no, no, that is exactly what I don’t want.”  I said that I was so angry right now, I don’t even think I can come in there today to open an account, let me speak to the manager. I explained to the manager, “I have accounts at several different banks right now, but the only one in Dickinson is Wells Fargo. I have never had problems with banks like I have had with Wells Fargo in Dickinson. I wanted to open a checking account with your bank, I called ahead to explain what I wanted, and what I didn’t want. Everything was understood, then the person I explained this to, says she won’t be here. Someone who has been here two months can help me. If I wanted to have problems with inexperienced people, I wouldn’t need to open an account at your bank, I could just keep going to Wells Fargo.” Maybe they should have said, “Aahh, that’s O.K., please don’t come here.” That’s what I would have said. They just agreed to have me set up my account with a different person.

When I went to Dakota Community Bank and began filling out a form, there were check boxes on the form for personal checking, business checking, personal savings, certificate of deposit, safe deposit box, and ATM/debit card. I said, “On this ATM/debit card check box, is this separate from the checking account?” She said, “What do you mean?” I thought she was being stupid, like at Wells Fargo, and I was beginning to get angry. I said, “Well, I have opened checking accounts at different banks, and with a checking account, you get checks, and you get an ATM/debit card.” She said, “Well, if you get denied for a checking account, you will also get denied for an ATM/debit card.” I said, ”Denied for a checking account? What are you talking about, denied for a checking account?”

The Dakota Community Bank woman said that they were going to do a credit check before they would allow me to have a checking account. I said that I have very good credit. She said, well, we are going to check. The credit check was being run as I was filling out a form. I asked if this was a free checking account, or were there fees? She said that it was free as long as I didn’t have a negative balance. I said, “Negative balance? Are you kidding me?” I was thinking, “Negative balance, what the fuck are you talking about? That’s in default. What the fuck are you talking about?” This bank woman started talking about the other checking accounts that I could choose from that would allow me to run up to a negative $1,000 balance, which I thought was fucking crazy. I said, “No, no, I have never been overdrawn in my life.” When my credit check report got printed out, my credit score was 772, which is very very good. It is not even higher because I only have two credit cards, that’s my only points deduction. I said to the woman, I have never ever had a bank run a credit check before they would allow me to open an account, they had only ever wanted an initial deposit, and my personal information. I said, “Maybe you have so few problems in comparison to Wells Fargo Bank in Dickinson, because you require a credit check.” She said, “If people have a history of owing banks money, why would we want to let them open an account with us?”

As we were finishing up the opening of this checking account, I felt like I was getting the White Trash treatment. They were in no way believing that I would have a good credit report. I wasn’t from Dickinson, therefore I must be White Trash. However, I was thinking, that the most White Trash thing a person could do would be to have a negative checking account balance, which people here in North Dakota think is the commonly accepted thing to do. No, it’s not, it’s called being in default.