Atlanta Business Chronicle: BofA under fire from SEIU, consumer groups

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Mark Calvey

Bank of America was defending itself Tuesday against criticism over its sales and collection practices.

The criticism comes from the Service Employees International Union, which is trying to organize the bank’s workforce, along with the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. They claim the bank pressured workers to meet sales quotas that burdened customers, especially among the working class, with costly and unnecessary products.

“The SEIU’s claims misrepresent Bank of America’s relationship with its customers and its associates,” responded Anne Pace, a spokeswoman for Charlotte, N.C.-based BofA (NYSE: BAC).

Some of the practices being criticized, such as courting those at embassies to sign up for checking accounts and other products, has long been seen as savvy move by major banks to reach out to immigrants.

Another area of criticism by the groups Tuesday involved debt collection. One former BofA employee alleged the bank falsely threatened legal action, in violation of federal law. The former employee also claimed the bank called neighbors of troubled borrowers, asking them to deliver a message to the BofA customer and hoping to embarrass them.

“We will not comment on specific allegations made by former associates, but will say that our practices are fair,” BofA’s Pace said. “The bank is committed to providing products and services to all of our customers to help them meet their financial needs.”