'Without cause': Bank fires complaining client
When Tim Kindrick went into his bank on September 23, he thought it would be business as usual to deposit a $2,100 insurance check he and his wife received for water damage. Kindrich ultimately got the check deposited, but when he complained about how it was handled, First Citizens froze his debit card and said it didn't want his business.
"It kind of floored me and my wife, the way we were treated," says Kindrick, 45, who's retired from the Army.
He'd been banking with the Forest Lakes branch of First Citizens–- motto: "We value relationships"–- for about three years, had over $20,000 in his account and had deposited three or four similar checks already this summer with a teller who knew him, he says.
This time, a different teller said she couldn't deposit the check because it was made out to both Kindrick and his wife Natalie, and the account was in his name only.
Natalie Kindrick had endorsed the check, but not with the special endorsement adding "make payable to Tim Kindrick" the bank wanted, he says. And when Tim Kindrick asked to see the policy, he says the bank manager told him she didn't have time to look for it, and that this policy was to protect his wife.
The manager called Natalie to confirm her signature on the check, according to Kindrick, and then deposited it. "To me, the accusation is I forged her name and tried to steal the money," he says.
Still peeved, Kindrick wanted to talk to a supervisor to see a copy of the endorsement policy, and says he was told someone would call him. That didn't happen, says Kindrick, until five days later, when Jeremy Cox, the area operations manager, called to say that Kindrick could never deposit another third-party check in his First Citizens account.
"When I told him that I wanted to talk to someone higher than him about the decision, he told me, 'No, the buck stops here,'" says Kindrick.
Kindrick decided he needed a new bank, and when he told Cox, he says the bank rep immediately froze his debit card and said he had 10 days to close his account. "It wasn't a right to bank with them, it was a privilege," Kindrick alleges Cox told him.
And on that particular decision, Cox was able to provide the policy: Page 34 of the "Deposit Account Agreement," which states that the account can be closed at anytime "with or without cause."
"I'm flabbergasted," says Kindrick, "and shocked when I requested to talk to a supervisor, and was told no."
Cox did not return a phone call from the Hook.
"Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to say anything because this speaks to a specific client matter," says First Citizens spokesman Frank Smith.
In general, does Raleigh-based First Citizens, which has 359 branches in eight states and the District of Columbia, drop clients if they complain too much or the bank finds them annoying?
"We can't comment," says Smith. "It's due to federal privacy law."
"I can't even write a check right now," says Kindrick, who says he fears a check would bounce if it didn't clear before the 10 days he was given to park his money elsewhere were up. And without the debit card that he estimates using about 50 times a month, Kindrick had to drive to the bank to get money until he opened a new account.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which regulates First Citizens, has seen complaints about banks jump from 6,255 in 2008 to 8,289 in 2009.
And while there's nothing to prevent a bank from ditching depositors, rejected clients can complain to the feds. "If they send in a written complaint, the FDIC will investigate," says FDIC spokesman Greg Hernandez.
Meanwhile, Kindrick is still trying to figure out how asking to see a written policy led to First Citizens dumping him. Says Kindrick, "I feel very much like I was retaliated against."