Even in the world of all-too-common bank abuses, some acts are completely beyond the pale.
As the correspondence below shows, BBVA Compass branch manager (more formally, “Vice President and Branch Retail Executive”) Jarred Edwards tried to intimidate and discredit my mother via an utterly unheard of and unwarranted gambit, namely, instigating an unannounced home visit by a state social services official to assess her competence. This has all the earmarks of retaliation for my mother having the temerity to submit written instructions via certified mail to him. Note that she had to send these letters to “Branch Manager” since he never gave his name to her any of the times he called her.
Apparently, Jarred Edward is so incapable of writing or so unable to justify his decisions that her perfectly reasonable request generated a vicious response. When instead of responding in writing to her letter as required, he improperly called my mother, she sent a second letter reiterating her instructions and also started documenting his aggressive and unprofessional behavior. It appears that building a file on Mr. Edwards is what led him to try to cow and discredit my mother by sending a state agency after her. Those of you who have met her at meetups know she is sharp as a tack.
Admittedly, on the outrage spectrum, after 9 million post-crisis foreclosures, roughly one in every six home with a mortgage, the idea of a banker abusing his authority by calling a state agency on a 91 (now 92) year old woman in a futile attempt to deem her incompetent to discredit her complaint, may seem like small beer.
But every person who has heard this story so far, from Birmingham-based executives and lawyers, other bankers, former state prosecutors, police sergeants, and current and former state officials, has been shocked and appalled. None of them has heard of a remotely similar instance of a bank officer in his official capacity filing a false report against a long-standing bank client to salvage his personal reputation.
Even with other bank misconduct, like foreclosures when the borrower should have been able to keep his home with a reasonable modification and abusive student loan servicing, the bank had an institutional motive, namely profit or even simple bureaucratic inertia. Here, as the record shows, Jarred Edwards of BBVA Compass had to go out of his way to call in the dogs. It’s almost certain that there’s no three-ring binder at BBVA Compass that codifies this malicious course of action. If there is, more senior heads than his need to roll.
This sort of abuse of agencies that provide child and adult protective services is apparently common; the officer who visited my mother said her bureau gets many filings where it becomes obvious the allegations are fabricated and the motive is obviously spite or revenge. I have to think this is not infrequent in ugly divorces where parents don’t have the money to duke it out through lawyers. If any readers know of cases of malicious filings with local or state protective services, please pipe up in comments. I’d like to see if I can get enough insight and leads to work this up into a New York Magazine piece.
As for why my mother does not simply change banks, first, up until this set of incidents with Jarred Edwards, she has had excellent service from BBVA Compass and enjoyed good personal relationships with all the local branch staff. She remains hopeful that the bank will do the right thing. Second, switching banks would not be the course of least resistance. She has quite a few bills on auto-pay and gets her Social Security payments deposited at BBVA Compass. Going to a new bank would be stressful and risks something going awry.
Below is the text of the letter to relevant BBVA Compass executives e-mailed earlier today; it also includes the original, non-scrubbed earlier correspondence as attachments.
November 27, 2019
VIA CERTIFIED MAIL
Ms. Andrea Smith
Chief Executive Officer of Birmingham Market
15 South 20th Street
Birmingham, AL 35233
Re: Abusive, dishonest conduct by your Crestline branch manager Jarred Edwards, including false and retaliatory report to the Department of Human Resources & Civil Rights; failure to implement written customer instructions or respond in writing as required by law
Dear Ms. Smith:
I am Marian C. Webber of XXXXX. My checking account number is XXXXXXXX. I have been a customer of your Crestline branch at 117 Euclid Avenue in Mountain Brook for over thirty years
I planned to write you about the rude behavior and appalling advice of your new branch manager Jarred Edwards regardless, but his conduct has now gone completely outside any acceptable bounds that it forces me to write a much sterner letter.
Because I am handicapped, have great difficulty walking, and took a bad fall when getting into a car, for the last few years, when I have needed to withdraw cash, I have written a check to myself, endorsed it, and had an agent, usually a home health care aide but sometimes my daughter, go to the Crestline branch and cash it. There was never any difficulty until early November, when Mr. Edwards refused to cash a check despite this being a well-established practice and harangued my agent, a home health care aide.
I called to protest, and my daughter happened to be present, so she and the home health care aide were witnesses (I put all calls on speakerphone to improve the sound quality). Mr. Edwards offered implausible pretexts (the Patriot Act, whose anti-money laundering provisions apply to correspondent and foreign accounts, and deposits, not withdrawals). Even worse, he offered recommendations that should disqualify him from working in banking. He suggested that I put my home health care aide on my bank account or that I get a debit card and let her make ATM withdrawals. As I am sure you know, caregivers all too often steal from their employers. Financial experts and lawyers forcefully recommend keeping them well away from banking accounts. Mr. Edwards instead insisted I put myself in a position to be victimized.
Mr. Edwards also suggested I make checks out to the home health care aide for her to cash. My daughter objected, saying that the agency’s contract expressly forbade that, plus the aide would have the right to the money and would not be obligated to turn it over to me. She also explained I cannot make checks out to her because as the executor of my estate, she cannot risk being construed to have pilfered my funds.
I again attempted to have a check cashed a few days later. After a second strenuous conversation, Mr. Edwards said he would cash this check but not any others. Note that he had still not offered any valid reason for his refusal.
I then sent the letter of November 8 by certified mail, attached, giving written instructions that addressed what could be his only legitimate objection, and one he had never made, of a “Know Your Customer” concern. As you can see, following the instructions would remedy that problem and not be administratively burdensome.
As my letter of November 14 (also sent certified mail) describes in detail, Mr. Edwards refused to provide a written response as required if he did not intend to comply with my instructions, and called instead. When the home health care aide said I was not available, he rejected her suggestion to call back, attempted to dictate to her, and was aggressive and rude to her and my daughter, as the letter explains in more detail.
I sent another certified letter on November 21 since the matter was still unresolved and I was in need of obtaining cash.
Apparently to try to discredit and intimidate me, Mr. Edwards took the outrageous step of retaliating by calling the Department of Human Resources & Civil Rights (DHRCR). I cannot believe this is an authorized measure in any of your corporate policies.
Even though the DHRCR officer, Ms. Tammie Godfrey, would not name the source, the false and abusive report clearly originated with Mr. Edwards. On November 25, Ms. Godfrey said the call came from a bank and involved my checking account. BBVA Compass is my only bank. My letters documented Mr. Edwards’ poor conduct and reckless advice. My previous correspondence, had Mr. Edwards presented it to anyone in authority, would show that attempting to depict me as not competent is ludicrous.
Ms. Godfrey, who said she would be closing the file, also confirmed that Mr. Edwards’ advice to put the home health care aide on my checking account or give her a debit card for ATM withdrawals was unconscionable. She literally recoiled in her seat when I recounted his recommendation. She restated what is common knowledge: that home health care aides often defraud their employers. My daughter and home health care aide were present during Ms. Godfrey’s visit and can corroborate what she said.
Ms. Godfrey also confirmed that the DHRCR receives many false allegations that were clearly filed as retaliation.
As you must recognize, it is impossible to reconcile Mr. Edward’s actions with your official standards, set forth here: (https://www.bbvausa.com/content/dam/bbva/usa/en/pdf/corporateresponsibility/annualreport_2017.pdf):
The customer comes first.
This is our primary focus. This means that we are empathetic: we factor in the client’s point of view by putting ourselves in their shoes from the beginning, so we can understand their needs better. It means that we have integrity: everything we do is legal, publishable, and morally acceptable by society because we always put the customer’s interests first. And it means we meet their needs: we are fast, agile and decisive when it comes to solving a customer’s problems and we do everything possible to overcome any obstacles in our way.
I do not see how BBVA Compass can tolerate Mr. Edwards’ behavior. He has repeatedly demonstrated that he lacks the personal maturity and emotional self-control to be in a customer-facing role and represents a risk to your bank’s reputation. Frankly, I believe I am entitled to compensation for his self-serving, abusive conduct that caused me considerable distress and also wasted a lot of my daughter’s highly valuable time. She is so outraged by his incompetence and vengefulness that she is likely to either post about this incident on her website, which gets 1.5 million page view a month and is described as influential by virtue of having a strong following among financial regulators, Congressional staffers, and journalists, and possibly also use it as the “story hook” for a New York Magazine article, where she is overdue to submit stories.
At a minimum, I expect a written apology and to have my instructions of November 8 implemented. If turnover in that branch is so high that it might be a nuisance to keep informing new staffers, I suggest sending me a letter on BBVA Compass letterhead confirming the check-cashing arrangement that my daughter can present when she goes to the branch. I trust I will hear from you no later than December 10.
Marian C. Webber
CC: Ed Bilek, EVP, Investor Relations
B. Shane Clanton, General Counsel and Secretary
Çagri Süzer, Head of Retail Banking