Tag Archives: banks 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.