Lawsuit Alleges Bank Of Oklahoma Maximized Overdraft Fees To Increase Profits

The lawsuit claims Bank of Oklahoma knowingly manipulated its collection of overdraft fees. But the bank says it did nothing wrong.

Tuesday, August 24th 2010, 9:49 pm

By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA – Bank of Oklahoma is being accused of intentionally ripping off its customers.

A class action lawsuit filed in Tulsa County District Court alleges that the bank schemed to increase its profits by maximizing overdraft fees.  But the bank says it did nothing wrong.

Like most college students, Jared Blohm lives on a limited budget. He says he's racked up hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees from Bank of Oklahoma, while admittedly not making the best spending decisions.

"I didn't feel like my mistake was worth them charging me $30," Jared Blohm said. "That seemed a little extreme."

A class-action lawsuit says Bank of Oklahoma is banking on those fees.

"A scheme designed to overdraft their accounts as quickly as possible, and as often as possible," Steve Stidham, Sneed Lang Herrold, said.

Steve Stidham represents the plaintiffs. He says the bank reordered the transactions that drained their accounts. The lawsuit claims the financial institution processed their largest transactions first and the smallest ones last.

In other words, it says they ran out of money faster than they should have, in turn resulting in more overdraft fees.

"There's no way on earth for any customer of these banking institutions are doing with regards to this practice. No way." Stidham said.

Bank of Oklahoma on the other hand stands by its overdraft policies, saying this lawsuit is nothing more than opportunistic one.

The bank declined an interview request, but released a statement saying, "It was filed on the heels of a trial court judgment against a national bank in California under different circumstances and it is not reflective of our policies which we are confident are entirely appropriate."

That's a reference to a recent ruling against Wells Fargo. That bank was ordered to repay $200 million in excessive overdraft fees. While this lawsuit focuses on the Bank of Oklahoma, Stidham expects other Sooner State banks to come under fire for allegedly overdrafting.

"We suspect that there are many, many other financial institutions that chose to do it wrong," he said.

Bank of Oklahoma charges $28.95 each time an account is overdrafted.

The plaintiffs' lawyers say this lawsuit has nothing to with recent banking reforms.  Banks are now required to give customers the choice of whether or not they want overdraft protection. The lawyers say they are confident Bank of Oklahoma is following the new law.


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