OCC Assesses $60 Million Civil Money Penalty Against Bank of America Related to Bank’s Overdraft Program
July 11, 2023 / Source: OCC
WASHINGTON—The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) today announced a $60 million civil money penalty against Bank of America, N.A., for violations of law relating to its practice of assessing multiple overdraft and insufficient funds fees against customers for a single transaction.
The OCC found that Bank of America charged customers tens of millions of dollars in fees on resubmitted transactions. In particular, the bank’s practices violated Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
Generally, when a bank receives a check or automated clearing house (ACH) transaction for payment from a customer’s deposit account, and the account has insufficient funds available for the payment, the bank may decline to pay the transaction and charge the customer an insufficient funds (NSF) fee. In some instances, third-party merchants resubmit, or represent, such checks or transactions for payment.
Upon representment, if the customer’s account still had insufficient funds, Bank of America either charged an additional $35 NSF fee or paid the transaction and charged a $35 overdraft fee. The bank’s disclosures did not clearly explain that multiple fees could result from the same transaction. Additionally, customers had no ability to know when or if a merchant would resubmit a transaction to the bank for payment and therefore could not reasonably avoid the assessment of multiple fees for the same transaction. In response to supervisory concerns, Bank of America has waived, refunded, or agreed to refund tens of millions of dollars to customers who were harmed by its practice of charging such fees.
“Overdraft programs should help, not harm, consumers,” said Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael J. Hsu. “Today’s action demonstrates the OCC’s commitment to protecting consumers and promoting fairness and trust in banking. We expect banks to conduct their activities in compliance with all applicable laws and standards, and when they don’t, we will act accordingly.”
The OCC’s civil money penalty order is separate from, but coordinated with, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which announced a consent order today against Bank of America. The CFPB ordered the bank to redress customers harmed by its practices.
The OCC penalty has been paid to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
- Consent Order (PDF)