If you’ve read my description of past experiences with Chase Bank, then you know that I despise the company quite a bit.
After the company attempted to extort me in order to get out of its introductory offer agreement that I had for 7.9% for the life of the loan – I scrambled to transfer the balance to a different bank, and subsequently published a full expose of Chase Bank’s extortion online.
Chase later sent me a letter apologizing for its “mistake”, but before long I found that Chase had blacklisted me from using any of its products. A loan application at Best Buy was denied for a vague reason, while the alternative lender approved me immediately – I’ve always had an excellent credit rating.
I recently – about 4 years after the extortion attempt – applied for a new introductory offer that I received from Chase through the mail. It was more out of curiosity to test my theory that I was blacklisted. Once again, Chase denied me due to what it called a “default” that was too recent. There was no such default – my credit history is spotless. I applied to another bank the same week and received approval for a significant loan.
Recently, I was sent a letter informing me that Chase has agreed to a settlement of $100 million into a Settlement Fund. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is overseeing the case, and has asked for any written objections to the settlement to be submitted by October 5th. The following letter is what I am sending to the court.
My Objection to the Chase Settlement
To the Honorable Judge Maxine M Chesney and Counsel,
I am writing today to respectfully object to the proposed Settlement In re: Chase Bank USA, N.A. “Check Loan” Contract Litigation, MDL No. 2032, Case No. 3:09-md-02032 MMC.
I am a class member in this case because in 2008, Chase attempted to apply erroneous $10 per month charges to my account, and to my great dismay, had increased my minimum payment from 2% to 5% of our outstanding balance.
Because of medical bills, we were forced to carry large balances on the card, so the minimum payment went from just over $150 to nearly $600 per month. At that point the fact that Chase had erroneously charged us $10 per month was not nearly as bad as the fact that our minimum payment had become a weapon of fear that Chase bank was now using against us in order to force us to accept a change in terms.
How Extortion Works
This was an account that – when the agreement was created – included clear verbiage that the loan would remain at 7.9% for the life of the balance. Suddenly, Chase was using a very scary method against our family at a time when we were already struggling due to the failing economy and dropping income.
Your Honor, as I’m sure you know, the definition of “extort”, according to Marriam-Webster is: “….to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power.”
Dictionary.com defines extortion as: “…the crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one’s office or authority.”
At this time, the U.S. economy was so bad that it was nearly impossible to obtain a loan from any bank – banks were actively getting bailed out by the government, people were foreclosing on homes, and credit offers were nowhere to be found. I was scared about what would happen from month to month if any extra bills came up – we were living month to month.
Chase Bullied American Families
When Chase did this to us – when Chase threatened to increase our monthly bills by nearly four-hundred dollars – we were horrified. My wife was scared about how we would keep our house – which, to that point we had been paying faithfully even as other families around us faltered. We tried to hide our fear from our two little girls, but it was hard.
I had some long sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do. I knew that we couldn’t afford the new, proposed interest rate on such a large balance any more than we could afford the exorbitant minimum payment Chase was now threatening us with.
I tried to reason with Chase by working with their online representatives, but I was informed that customers with low-rate promotional offers were being charged the $10 fee, and that the minimum payment would be doubled until we accepted the higher interest rate.
I wrote to Chase and advised them that they were breaking the balance transfer agreement that I had signed up for. I wrote, “That’s not only illegal and unethical – it’s very poor business practice.”
The response was a remarkable admission of fault on the part of Chase. The statement that I received back was as follows:
“Our records indicate that a Change in Terms notice was sent to you in November 2008, which advised of the addition of an Account Service Fee and a change to the required minimum payment for your account, effective as of your January 2009 billing statement. Please note that the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on your account is not changing and you may continue to take advantage of the promotional APR currently in effect on your account.
An alternative is available, but it does mean giving up the current APR on your promotional rate balance(s) with no expiration date.”
This statement was a shocking admission to us that they were openly threatening to charge us a monthly fee and doubled minimum payment unless we were willing to accept the “alternative” rate.
The threat had a final ultimatum at the bottom:
“Note: We must receive your confirmation of acceptance in order to apply the alternate terms to your account. If the confirmation is not received, the Account Service Charge and increased minimum payment will remain in effect on your account.”
Corporations as Modern Dictators
We were shocked and horrified that a Corporation would be behaving like a third-world dictatorship. We were lucky enough to have such a high credit score that I was finally able to transfer the balance to our other, more respectable credit cards, before Chase was able to carry out its threats.
I wondered what would have happened to other families that did not have the means to transfer balances? I wondered how a company, in a country like America, could get away with financially threatening a struggling young family – and no one seemed to be willing to do anything about it.
I did the only thing I knew to do – after transferring the balances, I fought back by writing a full expose of Chase’s actions in an online article. I sent the link of the article to Chase via my (now fully paid off) account’s email messaging system.
Chase subsequently closed my account – sending a letter with a vague excuse that didn’t make any sense. Since then, I’ve learned that Chase has me on some sort of blacklist. Any time I apply for credit through any business financed by Chase, the loan is denied. I recently tested my “blacklist” theory by applying for a balance transfer offer I’d received in the mail. Chase denied it due to the fact that the last “default was too recent”. I’ve never “defaulted” on any loan in my life.
Chase’s actions are indicative of a severely corrupted company with a corrupt leadership. The financial threats and bullying tactics were made even more horrible by the fact that it was attempted at a time when the country’s families were struggling the most, and the company had actually just received federal bailout money.
Chase Has Record Profits
I am objecting to this settlement, because in the first quarter of 2011 alone, Chase posted a record profit of $5.6 billion. The company knows that it has made mistakes, which is probably why it set aside $5.8 billion at the end of 2011 just for legal costs. By comparison, this settlement is so paltry, that it suggests to me that Counsel at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP might not have the best interests of the Plaintiffs and the Class Members at heart.
I implore you, Your Honor, to consider not allowing this settlement to proceed. A settlement of only $100 million would be a tragic failure on the part of this court. It would be a failure to hold Chase accountable for threatening, terrifying, and bullying so many families at a time when they needed to be threatened the least. It would be a failure to let Chase off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, for hurting our country’s families at a time when those families needed just as much help as Chase had received from our own government that same year.
Please, your Honor, block this settlement and force Chase to accept a fair degree of responsibility that is more on par with the level of financial terror and fear that they inflicted upon these families. I request that the Court inflicts an equivalent proportion of financial fear and terror upon Chase – so that next time, they more carefully consider their actions.
Thank you for your consideration.