28 December 2007

The arrogance of corporations

(Yes, I know the bank may be legally justified in denying the claim, but it still offends me to encounter such hubris in the corporate bureaucracy.)

Associated Press
December 28, 2007

An 82-year-old widow has filed suit against the officers of the nation's third-largest bank to get back her life savings of $19,700.

Willie Floyd thought the money was safe in a safe deposit box, but the bank's attorney says her cashier's check has long since expired and the money turned over to the state.

Floyd and her husband, Douglas, saved the money during the nearly 40 years he worked as a mechanic for a Waukesha car dealership. They withdrew it from a Marine Bank branch near his work when he approached retirement.

They planned to deposit the check in another bank when they resettled in Arkansas, where they grew up. But then Floyd's husband got prostate cancer.

The couple held out hope he would get better, and Douglas Floyd put the cashier's check in a safe deposit box until they could move.

"He got nervous about having the money in the house and he said, 'What if the house catches fire?'" Floyd said. "So we decided to get a safe deposit box out at the bank way out in Waukesha."

<>Douglas Floyd died in October 1988, and Floyd moved in with her granddaughter. She kept paying the annual fee on the safe deposit box. She said she asked a teller how long she could keep the check there. "I was told that as long as they were a bank, it would be good," Floyd said. "I didn't think much of it until I got a letter from the bank and I didn't recognize the name" of the bank.

Marine Bank had been bought by Bank One in 1988, but Floyd didn't notice until after Bank One was purchased by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. in 2004.

Worried by the letter, Floyd tried to deposit the check in a regular savings account in the spring of 2006. Bank officials told her it was no good.

She hired a lawyer, Tarena Washington Franklin, who said bank officials told her the money had been turned over to the state as unclaimed.

"I checked with the state, and it was not there," Franklin said. "That money has to be somewhere, and we couldn't get any answer from them. We filed a lawsuit to get their attention."

The check does not have an expiration date, she noted.

Joshua Stubbins, a local lawyer representing the bank, filed a written response to the lawsuit, saying that after five years the check was presumed abandoned under state law. He asked for the case to be dismissed.


  1. The bank is probably correct. Under the laws of each state, unclaimed funds and dormant accounts (and apparently uncashed bank checks) after a statutory time period (In this case, apparently five years) accrue to the benefit of the state through a legal process known as escheat.
    The family could submit their claim with appropriate identification and documentation to the state. Most states maintain a listing searchable on line of unclaimed funds describing the procedure for making a claim. There are also private web sites offering to search for you for a fee.

  2. Did the bank try to contact her? For that amount they should have tried to contact her multiple times over many months.


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