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Banking While Black: More complaints of discrimination as US bank CEO promises change

Banking While Black: More complaints of discrimination as US bank CEO promises change

Peter Wogbah didn’t know the police were looking for him until an officer banged on the side of his SUV as he was about to pull out of the parking lot of a US bank branch in Bloomington.

For two days in December, Wogbah tried repeatedly, unsuccessfully, to get cashiers to issue him a cashier’s check from his business account.

The 37-year-old from Edina is flipping homes in the Twin Cities and was asking for $30,000 of some of the proceeds from a recent real estate transaction.

“I give my information, my ID, I say, ‘I’m here to withdraw money,'” Wogbah said.

“She looked at my ID, then she checked into the computer, then she saw the amount and said, ‘How much are you trying to withdraw?'”

Wogbah says bank tellers repeatedly told him the money was ‘not available’, even after he called US Bank’s 1-800 number to confirm the funds had been transferred to his account. by the title company.

When he refused to leave, Wogbah says bank employees eventually told him to go to another branch to get the cashier’s check.

The US bank now says it should never have happened.

“We regret the frustration this has caused the customer,” Cheryl Leamon, senior vice president at US Bank, said in a statement.

Leamon did not explain why tellers called the police that day.

5 INVESTIGATES recently obtained body video of the incident, which shows officers questioning Wogbah in that parking lot for approximately seven minutes before releasing him and reporting that “no crime” had occurred.

“I’m sorry to say that if it was a white person, that person will be treated differently from me,” Wogbah said.

“Bank in Black”

Wogbah’s allegations of racial profiling are among the latest to fall under the national phenomenon widely known as “Banking while Black”.

Black customers across the country say they’ve been charged with fraud or called in by police for making simple transactions, including a recent case involving a Hollywood film director.

In Minnesota, US Bank publicly apologized late last year after 5 INVESTIGATES obtained video of a black customer being handcuffed and falsely accused of fraud for attempting to cash his paycheck.

Millions of people watched the video of Joe Morrow being questioned by police and a bank manager at a US Bank branch in Columbia Heights.

CEO Andy Cecere then promised expanded employee training after he “recognized the need to be culturally sensitive”.

But the Minneapolis-based company now faces additional allegations of discrimination from Wogbah and some of its own employees, according to a review of police video, incident reports and court records.

Cecere has declined repeated interview requests from 5 INQUIRIES over the past three months.

In an emailed statement last week, US Bank said it was now launching a newly formed advisory committee of black leaders from the Twin Cities and “expanded conflict resolution training for all branch employees.” and banks 24 hours a day”.

“I would like to see them save,” Wogbah said. “I think it’s important because we’re all human beings.”

complaints from within

US Bank is also facing new complaints and lawsuits from black employees who describe a culture of racial discrimination that reaches to the highest levels of the company.

Shirley Hunt, a longtime Lakeville manager, sued the company in February, saying it provided inadequate diversity and awareness training.

“The U.S. Bank pretends to respect the concept of diversity, but when it comes time to offer black employees the same benefits enjoyed by white employees, there is no follow-through for black employees,” the lawsuit states. .

John Span is also suing US Bank for racial discrimination and retaliation after working at the company for 24 years.

He started as a teller for US Bank in Illinois in 1996 and worked his way up to become an auto loan underwriter before being fired in July 2020.

Span says he was fired after reporting concerns about a new manager in the company’s human relations department.

In the lawsuit, Span claims the manager would tell him, “Don’t go to jail and beat your wife,” every Friday before the weekend started.

“At first, I felt a little humiliated… I wanted to speak (but I knew) that speaking would jeopardize my way of earning a living for my family,” Span said in a recent interview with 5 INVESTIGATES.

Span says he finally shared his concerns with Cecere when the US bank’s CEO emailed all employees days after the police killing of George Floyd.

“We need to do better,” Cecere wrote in the internal email obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES. “We have to allow ourselves to be uncomfortable so we can have courageous conversations and learn from each other.”

Span said he thought this letter opened the door to a conversation about what he was going through in Illinois.

“All I asked for was the benefit of the doubt to consider what I said was going on,” Span said.

The answer?

“Silence. No email, no response, nothing,” Span said.

He was fired two months later.

“A training problem”

Span says recent allegations made by black customers come as no surprise to him. In his lawsuit, he also details a system of what he calls “modern redlining” involving black customers who are barred from auto loans because of where they live.

“US Bank has a history of that,” Span said. “There are just too many incidents that show it may be something systemic with them.”

US Bank declined to comment on the allegations made by Hunt or Span, citing ongoing litigation.

Renee Sattiewhite, a long-time trainer and executive coach, says such allegations of discrimination deserve attention.

“It needs to be exposed and people shouldn’t be afraid to speak out,” said Sattiewhite, president of the African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC).

His organization last year received a $150,000 grant from the US Bank as part of its anti-racism initiative.

“Part of what our organization strives to do is bring everyone together. And so, to do that, you have to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Sattiewhite said. “I think, in this case, being culturally sensitive is a matter of training. You can learn to be culturally sensitive. You can learn what bothers people. You can learn what triggers people.

The money was available

Peter Wogbah says someone from US Bank called to apologize a few days after 5 INVESTIGATES first contacted the company.

A bank spokesman said the bank’s internal review of the situation had revealed an “inconsistency” in its wire transfer disbursement process and had provided clarification to all employees at its branches.

Wogbah says he is still considering legal action and is looking for a new bank to handle his affairs.

“I didn’t think I did anything wrong,” he said.

Tellers told police Wogbah yelled at staff – an allegation Wogbah denies.

US Bank did not respond to requests for release of an internal branch video that would show what happened before tellers called police.

Body camera video of Wogbah’s interaction with police shows that officers reported he was “cooperative”.

“I don’t know what the confusion was, but it didn’t go well apparently,” an officer said after spending less than a minute inside the bank.

Bank statements confirm that the money Wogbah wanted to withdraw was available that day.

After the police let him go, another branch of the American bank issued him a cashier’s check less than 15 minutes later.

“Whatever treatment I was getting, I didn’t deserve it,” Wogbah said. “I mean, it’s not like I’m trying to steal. It’s money that I put in the account.