Naomi Wolf says that when someone (apparently possibly her former assistant) stole her checks and ATM card, her bank ran out the clock on her time to claim fraud, rather than closing her accounts and making her whole. The result? She lost $300,000.
If this is true, it's an extraordinary claim, and the bank will deservedly be hit with huge penalties. But the facts seem a little murky. The bank says that it denied her fraud claim, which is not consistent with the claim that they simply stonewalled until it was too late to file; this seems to be confirmed when Wolf says that she was notified of this only after taking further losses. Problematically, Wolf seems to have been incredibly lackadaisical in identifying the fraud, or pursuing matters with the bank.
I'd be surprised to find that the bank, which clearly knows that she's a famous writer with more than enough money to hire a lawyer, simply decided to engage in blatant malfeasance aimed at forcing Wolf to eat a huge loss. On the other hand, it's not like corporations haven't done incredibly stupid things before, and if Washington Mutual had been the height of corporate responsibility, they wouldn't have been sold to JP Morgan Chase at fire-sale prices.
At the very best, if Washington Mutual's behavior was anything like that described, they behaved completely unethically--encouraging her to keep the accounts open so they could investigate the fraud, and then not investigating, refusing to give her updated records of her account or let her see copies of her cancelled checks. They'd better have some pretty compelling reason to believe that there was no fraud.
If they do, I expect we'll see it in the lawsuit--and Wolf will end up with egg on her face. If they don't, I expect this will settle very quickly. It's usually a mistake to pick a fight with folks who buy ink by the barrel.
However this works out, it's worth remembering that your bank's interests are not identical with yours, and if you suspect fraud, you need to be proactive about rectifying it. Most importantly, whatever your bank tells you to do, get it in writing.
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