BofA $410 million overdraft settlement wins court OK
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bank of America Corp <BAC.N> has won tentative approval of a $410 million settlement of lawsuits accusing it of charging excessive overdraft fees to roughly 1 million customers.
U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King in Miami granted preliminary approval for the accord on Monday and scheduled a November 7 hearing to consider final approval, court records show.
Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank by assets, is among more than two dozen U.S., Canadian and European lenders that had been named as defendants in the class-action litigation, which in 2009 consolidated lawsuits filed across the country.
JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>, Citigroup Inc <C.N> and Wells Fargo & Co <WFC.N> are among the other defendants.
Critics say overdraft fees, which are typically $25 or $35, disproportionately burden customers with lower incomes or low account balances.
In their November 2009 complaint, customers accused Bank of America of routinely processing debit transactions from largest to smallest rather than in chronological order.
They said this caused account balances to fall faster, sometimes causing customers to rack up hundreds of dollars of fees, even if they had been overdrawn by just a few dollars.
Bank of America spokeswoman Anne Pace said in an email the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank has eliminated overdraft fees for debit card transactions and significantly lowered fees for customers who overdraw excessively.
According to a court filing, Bank of America will not oppose a request by the plaintiffs' lawyers for attorneys' fees of up to 30 percent of the settlement fund, net of expenses.
Last year, the Federal Reserve prohibited banks from charging overdraft fees on electronic and debit card transactions without advance customer approval.
Wells Fargo has appealed an August 2010 court order that it pay $203 million to California customers in an overdraft case.
The case is In re: Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 09-md-02036.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Andre Grenon)