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The kindness of banks

With apologies to Barb Weir, the title is obviously tongue in cheek.  And doubly ironic after yesterday’s developments.

Yesterday we thought we might have a breakthrough when we finally received a statement from Bank of the West Chief Counsel, Quinn Osborne, that Bank of New York Mellon was in fact refusing to return our funds without the information that they were requesting about the beneficiary of the transaction that we cancelled, the Charitable Association for Palestinian Refugees.  We needed this in case they continued to hold the funds even after we provided the information, so that we could demonstrate that their action is illegal.

We are certainly glad that we did, because no sooner had we submitted the requested information than Mr. Osborne informed us that BNY Mellon would not be returning the funds.  None of the requested information was relevant, because the transaction had been cancelled and we had instructed that the money should be returned to our account, not to the beneficiary.  To give you an idea of the absurdity of most of the questions, however, you are welcome to read the text of our letter, which we sent to Tanya Kazak, Bank of the West VP for Compliance.

With your calls, emails and threats to move your banking away from Bank of the West, we had hoped to resolve the matter this week.  It may take longer, but here is what we plan to do:

  1. Take it even more public.  This morning we issued a local press release in order to carry the message farther.  We are considering national or even international outlets, but we are starting with our local area.  If you have press contacts, please refer this to them.
  2. Sue them in small claims court.  It turns out that even nonprofit corporations can use such courts in California for amounts up to $5000.  $3720 plus a $45 transaction fee may be pocket change for Bank of the West and especially BNY Mellon, with more than $1 trillion in assets, but for Palestinian refugees and our tiny nonprofit, it is worth all the trouble.
  3. Continue the boycott and sanctions campaign against Bank of the West.  Although BNY Mellon is holding our funds, Bank of the West is accountable for them because we are their client, not BNY Mellon’s.  We are hoping to use the power of you, the people, to restore justice in this instance, and to make Bank of the West see the wisdom of settling the matter without further damage to their reputation.
  4. We intend to seek help from public officials and agencies.  We have already filed a complaint with the California Department of Business Oversight for financial institutions.  In addition, we plan to follow up with the members of Congress and especially Barbara Lee, in whose district we are headquartered.  We welcome your help in this regard and hope to have contact and reference information for you soon.
In the meantime, we have a new number for you to call, that of Bank of the West Chief Counsel Quinn Osborne, +1 402 918 1623, and his fax is +1 402 918 5482, email quinn.osborne@bankofthewest.com.  He is the main contact with BNY Mellon and responsible for assuring that their instructions are followed.  He needs to hear from you.
Thank you for all your support.  We are going to win this one.
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