Life for Relief and Development accuses Bank of America in Federal Court for Discriminating Against Arab-American Charity
Witness asserts a pattern of Arab-American account closures
A lawsuit alleging that Bank of America discriminated against a Michigan-based Arab-American charity is winding to a close. Closing arguments are set for Friday.
[Editor’s note: Bank of America is the primary host of the annual Chicago Marathon]
Life for Relief & Development (“LIFE”), the oldest and largest not-for-profit organization in North America run by Arab Americans, alleges that Bank of America, N.A., (BANA) ethnically discriminated against the charity when it closed its accounts without cause or explanation in May 2012. Only when contacted by former congressmanHansen Clarke did the bank state that- “it closed the account in accordance with its terms and conditions.”
The trial is expected to shed light on why Arab-Americans across the U.S. have had their accounts summarily closed by major U.S. banks and could set the stage for similar lawsuits in the future.
Dennis Lormel, an expert witness for BANA, testified in December 2014 that the entities – Anti-Money Laundering Group (AML) operating within BANA identify Arab-Americans as “High Risk.” When asked why a segment of the American population, specifically those of Arab ethnicity, were experiencing unusual bank closures? Lormel replied “I would attribute it to risk.”
Lormel later went on to say that “On a company basis” he noticed closures attributed to the perception of high risk, based on names such as Mohamad, Ahmed, or even Salam.
During discovery and trial testimony, multiple inconsistencies on the part of BANA have also been revealed. BANA employee Christa Marshall testified that the account was closed due to Structuring (an attempt to evade legal reporting by manipulating deposits under a particular threshold). However, she failed to check the box forStructuring as a reason for closing the account when she filled out the closure recommendation form (CRF) in 2012.
Life for Relief & Development, founded in 1992, has distributed over $300 million dollars in assistance to those in need across the globe.
Life’s CEO Khalid Turaani said, “Bank of America may be too big to fail but not too big to be called to task when found guilty of discrimination against Arab-Americans.”
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on Friday, August 12 at the U.S. District Court in Detroit. A press conference will be held upon completion of the trial.