In June 2017, New Economy Project filed a federal lawsuit against Bank of America, N.A., and ChexSystems, a consumer reporting agency, on behalf of Adiaha Ruane, a low-income, African-American New Yorker. Ms. Ruane later added Early Warning Services, another consumer reporting agency, to the lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged that Bank of America violated federal and state consumer protection laws by failing to properly investigate fraudulent, unauthorized activity on Ms. Ruane’s bank account, and then reporting her to ChexSystems and Early Warning Services for fraud. It further alleged that ChexSystems and Early Warning Services, in turn, violated federal and state law by failing to properly investigate the bank’s negative reporting. Ms.Ruane sought monetary and injunctive relief. In April 2018, the court denied Bank of America’s motion to deprive Ms. Ruane of her constitutional right to a jury trial. Click here for the court’s ruling.
What Ms. Ruane alleged happened to her is, unfortunately, remarkably similar to what George Campbell, also a low-income, African-American New Yorker, whom New Economy Project represented in a federal lawsuit, alleged happened to him. Ms. Ruane alleged that in September 2016, she discovered that five fake checks, bearing a signature with an exact resemblance to that of none other than former President Barack Obama, had been deposited into her Bank of America account. According to Mr. Campbell’s lawsuit, less than a year earlier, someone had deposited fake checks bearing a fake Obama signature into Mr. Campbell’s account.
Ms. Ruane further alleged that, though Bank of America was therefore already on notice that fraudulent “Obama signature” checks were being deposited into its customers’ accounts, the bank denied Ms. Ruane’s repeated disputes, reported her to ChexSystems and Early Warning Services for fraud, and closed her account. Ms. Ruane alleged that with her account closed, and blocked by the negative ChexSystems and Early Warning Services reports from opening a new bank account, she was no longer able to receive her widow’s pension, could no longer afford her rent, and was forced to quit her job and relocate across the country to move in with her mother.
New Economy Project brought the lawsuit with co-counsel, Bromberg Law Office P.C., in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The parties settled the lawsuit in April 2020.