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.
Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, the TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appeare in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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