Detroit, MI– A lawsuit before U.S District Court Chief Judge Denise Page Hood accuses Bank of America of ethnic discrimination for arbitrarily closing the accounts of Michigan-based Arab-American charity. Closing arguments are set for Monday 11am, followed by deliberation.
Plaintiff Life for Relief & Development (“LIFE”) argues that Bank of America, N.A., (“BANA”) employee Christa Marshall, a senior Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) Compliance Specialist was inconsistent in her reports both when filling out the Account Closure Recommendation form (“ACR”) and during testimony.
During her trial testimony on Friday, Marshall listed the appearance of personal spending, and Structuring (an attempt to evade legal reporting by limiting the amount deposited under a particular threshold) as reasons for closure of the accounts. When cross-examined, Marshall testified that she could NOT point to a single purchase on the bank statements as personal spending. As for structuring, Marshall indicated two examples of which both failed to meet the legal threshold. These inconsistencies gave expectation to the merit of the lawsuit.
The trial is expected to answer the question as to the prejudicial targeting of Arab-American account closures across the U.S. by major banks and could set the stage for similar lawsuits in the near future.
Dennis Lormel, an expert witness for BANA testified in December 2014 that BANA identifies Arab-Americans as “High Risk”. Lormel further went on to say that he noticed closures attributed to the perception of high risk based on names such as Mohamad, Ahmed, or even Salam. According to Lormel, BANA was targeting them “on a company basis”.
LIFE has distributed over $300 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to over 13 million beneficiaries across 23 countries. As a non-profit, LIFE has a consultative status with the United Nations. Locally, Life has also donated more than 250,000 bottles of water during the Flint Water Crisis.
Life, human and civil rights organizations along with leaders in the Arab-American community are expected to hold a press conference following the verdict. Khalid Turaani, Life’s CEO said “Bank of America maybe too big to fail but not too big to be called to task when found guilty of discrimination against Arab-Americans”. Turaani added “ Bank of American should live up to its name and be a bank for all Americans”.