New Orleans Joe Nocera starts his column in today’s New York Times with a story of running into Jamie Daemon, Chase CEO, who rhetorically asks the elevator crowd, “Why does the New York Times hate banks?” Yeah, I wish, but back to Nocera, he responds that that everyone hates banks and gives credit card collection practices by banks as the example. There’s rich soil there!
Perhaps more perversely we have a current set of examples with the curiously sweetheart deals between the State of Louisiana and Chase which allow Chase to ineptly handle citizen monies on unemployment benefits and now tax refunds without heed to customers or concern by the state over the fees. I’ve commented in recent years on the problems that unemployed workers have had in Louisiana trying to obtain their benefits when offered by Chase on a debit card. Phone numbers would often not work or have been changed without notice. Frequently the only resolution would be trips to certain Chase branches hoping for a resolution. I have known unemployed workers where it took over a month for them to successfully access their unemployment benefits. The program was a unreported disaster, which continues largely intact to this day.
Now it turns out that unless the state is given a bank account number for a direct deposit, the State of Louisiana in its wisdom joins with Chase to automatically issue the tax refund in a Chase debit card. There is no transparency on the question of fees. No way without a computer to determine balances on the card once received and used. No choice on the front end between a debit card and receiving a check.
When questioned, Byron Henderson, a spokesman for the Louisiana Revenue Department, said “the state doesn’t have an interest in monitoring the fees. It’s not our interest in how they’re making money.’” Incredible! Meanwhile Chase makes money on the interest from the $57 Million.
Even the Times-Picayune normally kneejerk apologists for all manner of mayhem with the Jindal Administration and certainly businesses and banks like Chase, is clear in an editorial: “A taxpayer who choose to get a refund through direct deposit doesn’t lose money in the process. Neither should one who doesn’t or can’t use that option.”
Privatizing state functions to banks like Chase, can’t just be a “get rich scheme” for the banks at the expense of the citizens!