Michael Masters is a true American hero. An Army soldier who served during the Gulf War, Michael is a 100% disabled veteran. Like many wounded warriors, he found it difficult to assimilate back into civilian life. Today he is homeless and struggling to get back on his feet.
Michael survives month to month on a VA disability check. His checks were auto-deposited to an account at BBVA Compass Bank. Many months he can’t stretch his disability monies far enough. That means the occasional bounced check. The local BBVA manager at Mike’s neighborhood BBVA branch in Grand Terrace, California told him not to worry. The bank knew that Michael receives a government check that gets auto-deposited like clockwork.
Despite the branch’s willingness to work with Mike, corporate had other ideas. Fees. Huge fees.
Mike spoke with the manager who promised that they could resolve the matter. Instead, the bank loaded him up with over $3000 in fees! What little money Michael had was reduced by these fees. When you incur overdraft fees, the bank just takes the money from your account balance when you next deposit a check.
In fairness to the bank, they did waive some of the fees. When Michael asked for them to waive the balance, however, they closed his account. Michael says the forced closure of his account shows up on his credit and now no bank will open an account. He is blacklisted. Without a bank account, Mike can’t receive his VA monies.
Banks’ mistreatment of customers is nothing new. What makes this story special are the internal emails within BBVA Compass that Mike found. Someone in the bank deliberately or accidently released internal bank communications dealing with the bank’s decision to close his account. Absent litigation, the public never gets to see these internal bank communications. The message they convey isn’t flattering for BBVA Compass.
Rather than refund Mr. Masters his a few hundred bucks, the bank was more worried about PR and how to respond should the media ask questions. To us, it looks like a giant CYA campaign.
From the documents we have reviewed, one manager asked a Senior VP of BBVA Compass for “talking points” in case the bank faced a public relations nightmare. In the words of a bank customer relations manager, Kimberly Taylor, “[G]iven the PR risks of turning away a disabled vet, I’d like to convey that we are indeed concerned for his financial future.”
Another manager noted that although the bank had another account option that could avoid overdraft fees, the bank was worried about “escalations” that have occurred when past customers were not approved. That manager asked for “talking points” on “directing [Michael Masters] to open an account at another institution”.
I spoke with Mike and asked if the bank offered to help him find another bank. They did not. He says the bank was happy to keep him as a customer when he was racking up fees but when he asked for a refund of those fees, they closed his account.
Michael finally got his money back but he still feels he is blacklisted and can’t find a new bank willing to open an account meaning his next VA check is in jeopardy.
Worse, Michael was forced to sign a release. During a pleading conversation with the bank where he said he needed the money to eat, a manager told him that if he didn’t sign the document as is, they would not refund his money. Mike had to give up his rights to get back the remaining balance of fees that was taken from his check. Unfortunately, he doesn’t believe that the $568 they refunded wasn’t even the full and proper amount.
Was the bank authorized to close his account? Perhaps. But that isn’t the point. We are disgusted by how callous the bank was in handling a delicate situation. With over $86 billion dollars in assets, BBVA Compass Bank appears to be more interested in silencing Masters than they do helping him. Banks that care about their customers don’t need talking points to show the world that they care. They simply try to help their customers.
BBVA Compass Mission Statement
The bank’s mission statement says,
“BBVA Compass understands that every individual and company has unique dreams and ambitions, needs and wants. We realize that few take the same path in the faster, busier, and more complex world we live in. We get it. Whichever path you choose, and whenever you need us, we want to create opportunities for your bright future. From the smallest moment, to the largest personal or professional life event, BBVA Compass is there for you.”
After listening to Michael’s story and reading the bank’s email, we think the bank has failed miserably. They certainly were not “there” for Michael Masters.
What Can You Do?
Michael isn’t looking for sympathy. He simply wants to tell his story and get back what they owe him. He also wants the help in finding a new bank that the BBVA Compass was to offer him. With no car, finding a new bank isn’t easy.
We agree that Mike certainly has a story that needs to be told. Tell your friends about BBVA Compass and how they treated a 100% disabled war vet. Share this story on social media.
We live in an era where many of us feel we have no say or power to control our future. But we do. One manager was concerned that if they did not refund the fees, Mike was going to hitchhike to Houston and camp out in a tent in front of their main office with a protest sign. They were right to worry.
Michael laid it on the line for his country and isn’t afraid to make his voice heard. But when given a choice of getting back $568 so he could eat or signing a release, he signed so that he could survive. But he can still tell his story. And we will help tell his story.
We are the law firm that helped force Bank of America to pay over $16.67 billion back to taxpayers and homeowners. We sue banks. Unfortunately, we can’t do much for Michael except tell his story and we are proud to do so.
If you want to help, please send a link to this page to your friends and any vets in your family. And write an email to Donna Bellview, Senior Vice President - Customer Relations at [hidden email]. Let her know that you don’t appreciate how BBVA treats vets. Perhaps we can shame BBVA Compass into treating vets better.
Our promise to Michael is to leave this post up until BBVA apologizes, helps Michael as they promised and donates to the Wounded Warrior Project. If they do that, we will be the first to say, “thank you.” Publicly.
When Americans speak with one voice, our voices can be heard.
Bank Employee? Fighting Banks with Whistleblowers and Class Actions...
If you work at BBVA Compass or any bank, you may be eligible for a cash award if you have inside information about serious bank fraud. The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) pays bank whistleblowers up to $1.6 million for information related to serious fraud that threatens the financial stability of the bank.
Improperly applying overdraft fees probably doesn’t rise to the level of a FIRREA whistleblower award but some banking misconduct such as Wells Fargo’s boneheaded decision to open accounts without client’s permission probably does.
We can confidentially help you evaluate whether you have a case. To date, our bank whistleblowers have collected over $100 million in awards. For more information, visit our FIRREA whistleblower page on our sister site or contact attorney Brian Mahany at [hidden email] or by phone at (414) 704-6731 (direct).
We don’t take individual consumer or residential mortgage cases. We simply can’t help everyone. Because we are based in Milwaukee, it is simply impossible to take noncommercial cases across the U.S. But in the right case, we are willing to work with our class action partners and seek justice for hundreds or thousands of clients in a single case.
For an individual to sue BBVA Compass for $300 or $400 hundred bucks is difficult. Most lawyers can’t afford to take cases this size. But a class case allows a team of lawyers to sue a bank on behalf of all customers who have a common problem.
Class cases typically cost over $1 million for the lawyers to prosecute. They are extremely expensive. And without inside information, difficult to win.
Our business model is unique. We don’t take class cases from bank customers. Instead, we rely on honest bankers to steer us in the right direction. They know where the bodies are buried and where to find those responsible for the wrongdoing.
If you are a present or former bank employee with inside knowledge of wrongdoing, illegal fees or other unethical conduct, call us. All inquiries are protected by the attorney - client privilege and kept confidential.
Most of our bank whistleblowers are simply honest people who don’t like to see customers get screwed by the banks they work for. We get it. Their prime motivation isn’t the prospect of an award. (In rare situations, we can hire a bank worker as a non-testifying, confidential consultant in a class case but those rules are tricky.)
If you know of a fraud, we can evaluate whether you qualify for a whistleblower award, if not, whether your information can still be used to help bank customers. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany directly at [hidden email] or by phone at (414) 704-6731 (direct).
MahanyLaw and Confidentiality
We are a lender liability and whistleblower firm that sues banks. Unfortunately, we do not handle consumer or residential banking cases. Our goal with this post is to raise awareness, help a disabled vet who put everything on the line for us and to raise some money for a worthy charity. That would be a win - win for everyone, including BBVA Compass.
Each day we receive dozens of calls from consumers and bank fraud. Our apologies in advance if we don’t return your call. We can best help bank fraud victims through insiders and whistleblowers. If we are currently looking for victims of specific banks, those cases will be listed on our Active Investigations page.
All inquiries are kept confidential. We have told Michael’s story with his permission. If you have a story that needs to be told, write to us at [hidden email].