Two Maryland victims of banking system meet with Obama
A Baltimore woman and a retired city police officer were among five victims of the financial system invited to meet privately with President Barack Obama at the White House today.
After the meeting, the president will deliver a speech about the need to overhaul financial regulations. Updated rules for the financial system are now being considered by Congress, and House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said earlier this week that he expects the House to vote on the legislation next month.
To underscore the need for change, Obama will be introduced by one of the five Americans who met with him.
The group is to include Andrew Giordano, 61, a retired city police officer and wounded Vietnam veteran, who was penalized by overdraft fees that his bank imposed without asking him in advance, according to the White House.
Giodano, who now lives in Locust Point and manages a fitness center for seniors, "receives a monthly government check of $123, which he keeps in a separate 'veteran’s account'—not his primary checking account. Last summer, he lost the ATM card for the veteran account and called his bank to cancel it and order a new one. To avoid mixing up his cards, he used a card with a special logo on it and he requested the same logo on his replacement card. Instead, the bank sent him a plain bank debit card, which he thought was for his primary account. For the next two weeks, he used the plain card for regular expenses and quickly overdrew the small amount that was typically in his veteran’s account," according to the White House.
"The bank had automatically enrolled Andrew in “overdraft protection” even though he had never asked for this service on the veteran account. Further, he did not learn about the overdrafts until his next statement, so the account ended up $1,400 in the red, with $814 of that due to 22 overdraft fees of $37 each. When Andrew discovered the bank’s error and explained the situation, the bank was only willing to refund two-thirds of the fees."
Maxine Given, 44, of Baltimore, another of those who will meet with Obama in the Roosevelt Room, was hurt by abusive banking practices that are designed to multiply fees, the White House said.
Given, a certified public accountant and senior director of finance for the Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, "was charged $148 in overdraft fees in April 2008 and another $222 in May 2009. In both cases, most of the fees resulted from her bank’s reordering of her withdrawals that took place on the same day from largest to smallest (instead of chronological order). In April 2008, the overdraft was caused by a mortgage check that the bank rejected the very next day. This caused a cascade of $37 overdraft fees on three purchases from the same day, including a $37 fee based on $12.08 debit charge for lunch. Maxine even tried to transfer money from savings, but the transfer was counted too late," according to a White House statement.
In his speech today, to an audience that is to include the five people he is meeting with privately, as well as lawmakers, state attorneys general, business executives and others, the president plans to renew his push for an end to these and other practices, which the administration describes as outdated rules that unfairly punish consumers and benefit banks.
Obama is also expected to take on critics of a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which he has advocated.
In June, the president said that he wants Congress to approve "a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system, a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression."
Prospects for the legislation remain uncertain, but lawmakers are expected to approve at least some of the changes that Obama has backed. The financial protection agency that he has proposed would be able to ban the banking practices that snagged the two Marylanders and many others, the White House said.