SAN FRANCISCO, CA – On February 10, 2022, Anthony Ramirez and Masako Williams filed a class action lawsuit against Bank of America, N.A. alleging the bank publicly promised to waive overdraft and insufficient funds fees for checking account customers like them experiencing financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the bank broke its promises and continued to rake in record profits from these exploitative fees during one of the worst economic crises on record.
The lawsuit was brought by plaintiffs who faced financial struggles during the pandemic and, after learning of the bank’s promises to of fee relief, sought help from Bank of America but were denied relief. These customers allege that Bank of America violated the covenant of good faith and fair dealing in its contract with customers, unjustly enriched itself through its knowing retention of these account fees during a financial crisis, and violated unfair trade practices laws of California and Texas by misrepresenting that it would refund those fees.
In the words of an early-pandemic Bloomberg article covering the pernicious impact of overdraft fees on financially vulnerable people, Bank of America was “effectively charging people who don’t have money for not having money.” As noted in the complaint, the bank earned $1.1 billion in overdraft fees in 2020, despite its promise to provide relief from such fees.
Hassan A. Zavareei, managing partner at Tycko & Zavareei LLP explains, “These fees are disproportionately leveraged on poor people of color, particularly Black and Latinx people. And these are the exact same people who suffered the most excess death, illness, and loss of income during the pandemic. Bank of America’s bid for good press, by falsely promising and then withholding refunds, was the most harmful to the most vulnerable people in our society.”