"solicited business from companies it knew had been accused of telemarketing crimes....high-ranking employees at the nation’s fourth-largest bank frequently warned colleagues about telemarketing frauds routed through its accounts.... Documents also show that Wachovia was alerted by other banks and federal agencies about ongoing deceptions, but that it continued to provide banking services to multiple companies that helped steal as much as $400 million from unsuspecting victims."
Now, obviously I don't have the time and resources to watch all the news that appears on television, but I haven't seen this latest development in the story on either CNN or NBC. True, it doesn't have the same urgency as an election or a killer storm. But right now the blogosphere is the only place it seems to be kept alive, by bloggers who are making sure it doesn't get swept under the rug (along by some good old-fashioned, old-media leg work).
Consider the words I italicised. A major American bank, a Main Street retail bank, provided banking services to multiple companies that helped steal as much as $400 million from unsuspecting victims.
Shouldn't that be a major, ongoing news story until justice is served? The fourth largest US bank deeply-entangled in a $400 million consumer rip-off?
Or did I miss the sign that says "size of fraud must be at least a $1billion to make headlines." A ton of people were getting taken for tens of thousands of dollars through the fraudulent use of unsigned checks that Wachovia processed. Contrary to earlier claims that "we know nothing," Wachovia was not, it appears, merely a passive patsy. Indeed, it now looks like the bank was actually pursuing companies engaged in these fraudulent practices! Why? Profit, or course:
“We are making a ton of money from them,” wrote Linda Pera, a Wachovia executive, in 2005 about a company that was later accused by federal prosecutors of helping steal up to $142 million.
How was Wachovia making money? By charging their clients--the rip-off artists--big fees when their fraudulent checks were rejected by other banks. This is like my bank asking me to write checks I can't cover, just so they can make money on the NSF charges. And Wachovia kept doing this after a number of other banks raised BIG red flags. It would all be totally unbelievable if we had not just lived through a serial nightmare of corporate sleaze, Enron, Tyco, Adelphia, Haliburton, HealthSouth, WorldCom, CSFB, Etcetera, and Ad Nauseum.
Perhaps nightmare is the wrong word, because you wake up from nightmares. There is no waking up from being ripped-off. It is a sad fact of our shared reality that in the past five years tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americas have learned what life is like when the money has gone, has been taken (often by some scumbag living an affluent lifestyle) and is not coming back.
I know what it is like to be the victim of fraud: no fun at all. A while back I was swindled out of $45,000 by someone now serving time in Federal prison for fraud, someone who ripped off a lot of people, some of them for a lot more dollars than he took from me. Someone I like to refer to as Inmate 10764-084.
That missing money has haunted me. It mocks me every time I see something I would like to buy but cannot afford, every time I struggle to pay a bill or think of something that my family needs but must now do without. That person's dishonesty frustrates and infuriates me in every situation where my family and I could really use the money we don't have because of him.
And it pains me to think that there are thousands of people experiencing these same feelings, extremely unpleasant feelings, thanks to the gross--and now we hear, possibly deliberate--incompetence of a high street bank.
(Oh, and I'm sure it's pure coincidence that Inmate 10764-084 used to bank there.)