Category Archives: Patriot Act

Hot Air

Chase-ing Foreigners Away

I ran a blind item here a couple of weeks ago about “[o]ne of Bloomington’s most respected and beloved citizens” who claims she was given the bum’s rush by her bank because she is “closely related to someone who works for a foreign government.” Reps of this person’s bank (she spoke with a number of people on the phone regarding the matter) said they were sorry for giving her the thumb but that’s the way their bank interpreted the Patriot Act.

I elected to withhold the names of the person and the bank until I could speak with someone from that institution (although I did slip in a huge clue by mentioning the bank in question in another context.)

Anyway, I’ve finally contacted the bank and now have its side. So, here’s a fuller version of the story:

The ex-customer whose account was disco’d is Zaineb Istrabadi, a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. Her ex-bank is Chase, the US consumer and commercial banking arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Zaineb was told that because her brother Feisal Istrabadi once worked for the government of Iraq, Chase would terminate her account. Born in the US in 1962, Feisal attended IU as an undergrad and graduated from the Maurer School of Law in 1988. He was in private practice until 2004, during which time he worked closely with members of the opposition to Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.

Istrabadis

Zaineb Istrabadi (L) & Feisal Istrabadi

[Zaineb photo — Herald Times]

After Hussein’s overthrow by US-led forces in 2003, Feisal was rewarded by the new Iraq government with an ambassadorship to the United Nations. He returned to Bloomington in 2007 to take a job with his alma mater law school, where he is a professor of practice. He specializes in “research on the processes of building legal and political institutions in countries in transition from dictatorship to democracy.”

Feisal’s own Chase account, acc’d’g to Zaineb, was terminated “years ago,” ostensibly because he’d worked for the government of Iraq.

Zaineb, who lives with her ailing mother, says she received a call one morning from her Chase branch office. After some hemming and hawing, the rep said, “Your business is no longer welcome at Chase.”

Zaineb says she’s been a customer of the same bank for at least 10 years. JPM Chase was the third company to own the bank during her term as a customer there. The way Zaineb sees it, she should have been considered a Chase customer for all those ten-plus years.

When Zaineb asked why Chase was taking this action, she was told the Patriot Act was to blame. Or, at least, Chase’s interpretation of same. Zaineb adds that all the Chase reps she spoke with were “extremely apologetic.”

Nevertheless, Zaineb was left looking to park her cash in another bank, which she’s done. She’s also hurt and angry. She says she’s contacted some Arab-American advocacy groups to see what hell they might be able to raise about the situation.

For its part, Chase says it’s operating within the guidelines imposed on it by federal regulators. A Chase employee on the regional level told me, “It’s not the Patriot Act,” that led to Zaineb’s account termination.

Zaineb, acc’d’g to this Chase employee, “is a politically exposed person according to our regulators.” This person says Chase will not offer accounts to anybody with connections to “non-US people” working for foreign governments. This person says the practice is “due to the regulators.”

The person explains: “The regulations are so strenuous around these accounts that we never do business with these accounts anymore.”

Here’s Chase’s corporate line: “This decision is not a reflection on how these customers have handled their accounts, but rather a result of our focus on internal controls.”

Chase Bank is regulated by the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a bureau of the Department of the Treasury. Parent JPMorgan Chase & Co. is a multinational banking and financial services holding company with assets of more than $2.5 trillion. That’s trillion. With a T. It is regulated by the Federal Reserve. The regulations my Chase source is talking about come from the OCC.

Chase Architecture

Zaineb Istrabadi’s experience with her ex-bank is not unique. Arab-Americans around the country are receiving termination notices from their banks. The Arab-American Civil Rights League has filed a class-action lawsuit against Ohio-based Huntington Bank in the US District Court in Detroit. The Council on American-Islamic Relations–Michigan appealed to the OCC to investigate Chase Bank‘s mass account terminations this past spring. The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida has asked the US Justice Department to sniff around for racial or religious discrimination in the national rash of account closures. Sofian Zakout, who heads American Muslims for Emergency and Relief Inc., had both his business and personal accounts terminated. A Minneapolis dentist begged TCF Bank to allow him to reopen his joint account with his wife but was rebuffed.

Much of this purging of Arab-Americans from banks’ customer rolls is due to various institutions’ interpretations of the OCC’s regulations. Here’s how Chase Bank interprets them:

Chase is no longer offering personal and business banking accounts to current or former senior non-U.S. officials, their immediate families, or close associates, given the significant and ongoing regulatory requirements to maintain the accounts. 

Regulatory guidance requires that banks perform specialized oversight and monitoring of these types of clients – requiring a significant amount of resources to support a relatively small group of customers. 

The above paragraphs arose in response to a June, 2013, guidance document issued by the Financial Action Task Force. The FATF describes itself this way:

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an independent inter-governmental body that develops and promotes policies to protect the global financial system against money laundering, terrorist financing and the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The FATF Recommendations are recognised as the global anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) standard.

Some 34 nations as well as the European Commission and the Gulf Cooperation Council are members of the FATF. They are joined by dozens of associate members and observer organizations. It’s an all-star cast of players in the international monetary game.

In short, certain foreign gov’t officials and their kin are under suspicion. Their financial transactions must be strictly monitored. Such oversight costs time and money. The banks, ergo, figure it ain’t worth it.

Bye bye, Istrabadis — and countless other Arab-Americans. It’s not clear at this point if the same monitoring is required, say, of consuls and ambassadors from the United Kingdom or Monaco. In any case, Zaineb Istrabadi wonders how any foreign official working in the United States can pay her or his credit card bill. “How do they do their banking?” she says.

She only knows she and her brother are not doing their banking with Chase anymore.

Hot Air

Cool

How do like sleeping with the windows open all night long these days?

Now we come into fall, perhaps the prettiest, most comfortable season of the year. Natch, I didn’t always feel this way. For the longest time, well into my adulthood, I dreaded the coming of September and October — that meant it was time for another school year. For an inveterate school-hater like me, the fall was a jail sentence.

Schoolroom

How Did I Survive This?

Anyway, the cool is fine by me at this advanced stage of my life. So cool was it yesterday AM that I spied one woman walking east on Kirkwood Avenue wearing a heavy fall coat and a scarf wrapped around her neck.

No, let me amend that — it wasn’t that cool yesterday morning. Politics, apparently, isn’t the only thing that causes people to overreact.

Patriot Games?

One of Bloomington’s most respected and beloved citizens has told me she was informed by her bank that the institution no longer wants her business.

Which seems odd, considering the fact that all sorts of reprobates and sociopaths are welcome to deposit their questionably-earned gains in banks from sea to shining sea. You may recall it took a federal statute to force banks to look into enormous deposits of cash. You know, the kinds of deposits drug kingpins make.

Cash

Another Day, Another….

In fact, it was only this past winter when JP Morgan Chase began asking people who wanted to make huge deposits for ID to make sure they were indeed account holders. JPM was forced to institute the new rule in the fallout from the Bernie Madoff affair. Spokesbeings for the bank said the rule was intended to weed out money launderers.

Nice of them. Of course, it took a US Justice Dept. investigation to get the Chase banksters to become such concerned citizens.

In any case, the Bloomington woman was phoned one recent morning by a rep from her __________ branch. She was told, after some hemming and hawing, “Your business is no longer welcome at __________.”

The woman says she’s been a customer of the same bank for at least 10 years. The bank was taken over first by another financial outfit and then by __________. The way the woman sees it, she should be considered a __________ customer for all those ten-plus years.

When the woman asked why __________ was doing this, she was told the Patriot Act was to blame. Or, at least, __________’s interpretation of same. The woman adds that all the __________ reps she spoke with (several people took the phone during the call in question) were “extremely apologetic.”

Bush Signing

George Bush Gleefully Signs The Patriot Act

Nevertheless, the woman was highly offended. One rep explained to her that because she was closely related to someone who “works for a foreign government” the bank could not longer do business with her under its own guidelines. The woman and her relative were natural-born citizens of a Middle Eastern nation. The woman has since become a naturalized American. “I’m not an Arab-American,” she says. “I’m an American.”

She may be an American, but she’s no longer a  __________ customer.

[MG note: I will not identify the woman or the bank until I hear back from the bank.]

This Bloomington woman’s story comes at a time when Arab-Americans across this holy land are being given the bum’s rush by their banks. At least she got something of an answer when she asked why. Acc’d’g to a story in the LA Times, most Arab-Americans being told their accounts are being closed are given no reason at all.

I’ll continue digging into this story. Stay tuned.

Black Eye

You wanna get even madder?

Okay. The National Football League didn’t give former Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice a lengthy suspension for punching his then-fiancé into unconsciousness until after video of the incident was uncovered by the gossip site TMZ.

[I’m not going to provide a link to the TMZ story because I don’t believe disseminating the video serves any purpose other than to hurt the victim again.]

NFL czar Roger Goodell had suspended Rice for two games after the incident first was reported. The video was revealed the other day. Suddenly, Rice’s two-gamer has become an indefinite lay-off.

Rice

This Man Punched His Fiancé Into Unconsciousness

In other words, it’s sorta bad for an NFL player to punch the shit out of his beloved. It’s super bad if the act is caught on video.

Rice, BTW, has been fired by the Baltimore Ravens. Again, the team took no action against him even after he made a plea agreement with prosecutors over the incident. The Ravens acted only when they were embarrassed by the video.

More BTW: Let’s talk punches. It takes a monster blow to induce unconsciousness, despite what you think you’ve learned watching the movies or TV. Unconsciousness resulting from a blow generally occurs when the brain stem or the spinal cord near it are twisted or impacted. Such twisting occurs when the puncher delivers a roundhouse, forcing the recipient’s head to turn violently and suddenly. The impact trauma can occur when the inion, a small projection at the base of the rear of the skull, collides with the spinal cord, again due to a blow that causes sudden head rotation.

This is why boxers are taught to grit their teeth when they’re punched and why they work so hard to develop strong neck muscles. The idea is to resist the rotational forces of the cross punch.

So, Ray Rice didn’t merely jab at his fiancé’s face when he struck her in that casino elevator last February. He swung a roundhouse. He wanted to cause damage to her. He belongs in prison.

As for his then-fiancé — she is now married to him. She belongs on a psychiatrist’s couch.

Roger Goodell and the top officials of the Baltimore Ravens? They belong in hell.

Union, Yes

WFIU is reporting that Bloomingfoods employees are considering unionizing.

Bloomingfoods

All I can say is, Yay!

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