Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In the bank's favor

If Rep. Don Brown (R-DeFuniak Springs, FL) gets his way the state of Florida will intercede in favor of a bank in a lawsuit.

The bank in question is Bank of America. A whistleblower lawsuit was filed against Bank of America claiming that the bank committed fraud against the state of Florida by not turning over unclaimed revenues to the state as directed in the Florida Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act.

The lawsuit claims that Bank of America executives violated the state law by not turning over unclaimed funds accumulated during routine inter-bank accounting errors. The state law that requires after 5 years the funds are to be turned over to the Department of Financial Services and the Department of Education.

According to the claim, instead of turning over the funds the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank used the funds for executive bonuses. The lawsuit also claims that this practice went on for a decade and possibly cost the state more than $100,000.

A representative for the Bank of America said that the funds in question accrued due to accounting adjustments based on a method agreed on between the Bank of America and presenting banks and didn’t fall under the requirements of the Florida Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act.

The lawsuit was filed last June. It was unsealed in January after the state of Florida decided not to intervene in the case.

Speaking for the Florida Attorney General, JoAnn Carrin said that the Attorney General’s office decided not to intervene because they felt that the lawyer for the whistleblower "would provide more than adequate representation for the case." The decision was not made because the AG’s office felt that the case lacked merit. In other words, the state can possibly benefit from someone else’s work without having to put forth any money on their own.

Recently, the Bank of America’s motion to dismiss the case was denied.

If the AG’s office felt the case was without merit they would have said so. The the judge ruling on the motion to dismiss felt the case was without merit (s)he would have ruled in Bank of America’s favor. Neither happened so lobbyist for the bank found a willing rube to help the bank out of this problem.

Yesterday, April 24th, Rep. Don Brown decided to be that rube. He decoded to help the Bank of America out by introducing an amendment that would excuse the bank from following the Florida Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act retroactively. Not to be outdone, a similar amendment is being considered by the Senate.

Brown’s amendment was attached to an unrelated bill. According to Brown, the amendment was designed to clarify existing law.

I’ve always found that it’s best to clarify an existing law by saying the the possible lawbreaker didn’t really break the law.

Of course, it’s also highly appropriate for the legislation to interfere in an on-going lawsuit by putting forth an amendment that benefits one mega bank.

If my tongue was even more firmly planted in my cheek I wouldn’t be able to use it to talk anymore, either.

I’m not writing this to put forth an opinion on the lawsuit itself.

Someday the state legislators will remember that they are there to represent the people of Florida, not the banks and corporations that work in Florida. The requirements of the Florida Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act seem pretty clear but I don’t know it word for word. Bank of America may be correct in their claim.

That does not justify, however, state legislators interfering in a lawsuit that has already been brought before the courts. Especially since they are doing so at the behests of a mega bank like Bank of America. Legislators are supposed to represent the people of Florida. They were not elected to represent a bank that is based in North Carolina.

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill containing Brown’s amendment this week.

Crossposted on Can't Keep Quiet!

2 Comments:

At April 26, 2006 5:58 PM , Blogger Michael Hussey said...

Someday the state legislators will remember that they are there to represent the people of Florida, not the banks and corporations that work in Florida.

I wish.

I was looking online to see if Charlie Crist had Bank of America campaign donations. No luck yet. Maybe third parties.

Great post.

 
At April 26, 2006 8:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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