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Sign a petition against SunTrust’s new increased checking account balance requirement

A petition has been created on the ForceChange.com site to protest SunTrust’s new increased checking account balance requirement.  Here is a direct link in case you’d like to sign-up/join in.

While I mean no disrespect to the author of the petition letter, it does contain one sentence that I am afraid may fall upon deaf ears as it is intended to be sent to SunTrust’s CEO:

“Imagine losing your job or struggling with a low income, and on top of it being assessed a monthly fee taking away more precious funds.”

Unfortunately, I don’t think very many top banking executives are worried about their personal finances (stock options, bonuses, perks, “golden handcuffs”).  Yet the PR spin proclaiming , “poor, pitiful banks–regulations did this,” for the most part apparently unquestioned by the media, continues.  Meanwhile, look at Suntrust’s 10-K filed with the SEC February 24, 2012.  I found this statement on page 40 regarding SunTrust’s increased employee compensation expenses interesting (especially since I haven’t had a raise in four years while the price of cream cheese has risen from approximately 89 cents to $1.89):

“The $130 million, or 5%, increase in employee compensation expense related to higher compensation from improved business performance and increases in client-facing full-time equivalent employees.

I also found in advancing through SunTrust’s “Regulatory Filings” numerous instances where a “Statement of changes in beneficial ownership of securities” was made, as depicted by the screenshot below.

Screenshot of Suntrust Regulatory Filings page showing "Statement of changes in beneficial ownership of securities" links

Now, I can already guess that a retort, “this is taken out of context,” could be submitted if the above quote was found to be disagreeable by SunTrust or anyone else.  But then again, so are statements like: “Over the last few years, changing financial regulations have cut into the revenue of big banks like SunTrust,” and “The pricing changes reflect the costs of doing business” (the latter was attributed to a SunTrust spokesperson; here is a link to the Huffington Post article from which these two examples were taken).

I acknowledge that it is true, “higher compensation” for SunTrust employees does qualify as a “cost of doing business.”

Here’s another interesting tidbit, quoting an article found on Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch site (Aug. 9, 2011): “[SunTrust's board] approved a sharp increase to the company’s quarterly dividend, making it one of the latest companies to join a growing trend of corporations rewarding shareholders with cash.”

So, student checking account holders and others with small account balances, the lesson is, as an alternative to suffering and petitioning against SunTrust, you could change your strategy.  Become a SunTrust shareholder and then you can benefit when it triples its checking account balance requirement and/or imposes other fees that “reflect the costs of doing business.”

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SunTrust’s increased minimum balance requirement backfires

When I received my SunTrust checking account statement a couple of months ago, I read a notice that it would be raising the minimum balance requirement from $500 to $1500 to avoid a fee; as an alternative, one could use a direct deposit arrangement.  I thought to myself, “here we go again” (as also observed by some coverage in the media, such as this article).

I originally opened that checking account several years ago when SunTrust offered an employee program through a previous university employer.  I did use direct deposit for my payroll checks, for years, until SunTrust decided it wanted to convert the account, eliminate benefits that had been attractive, impose a $5 debit card fee, and otherwise come to a whole new arrangement.  As per the article link above, several banks were attempting the same thing, but consumer “fury” caused SunTrust to back down.

However, I made new arrangements, too.  I opened credit union accounts (checking, savings, kids’ accounts, a safe deposit box, et cetera).  I set-up everything I needed elsewhere, and my account relationship with SunTrust is now just a hollow shell.  At the time that I was opening the credit union accounts I had a conversation to the effect that “business was booming,” spurred on by change in terms notices, new fees, and the like, from traditional banks.  I couldn’t help but notice other differences in my “brand experience,” comparing SunTrust to the credit union.  With my SunTrust account I set-up an overdraft protection account by enduring a process that was not dissimilar from my point of view to a mortgage application.  The paperwork was astounding, I thought, at the time.  With the credit union, it was practically verbal by comparison, for an overdraft protection amount that was more than triple the size of the one at SunTrust.

SunTrust continues to send me (as a valued and long-term customer) various offers for a plethora of banking services.  But, there shall be no credit card, mortgage, investment, or other account.

Oh, and that car loan offer, it “backfired”–for SunTrust–too.

Here’s the part I really find interesting.  The PR “spin” from the banks is all “poor, pitiful us.”  The media seem to just take whatever is sent via email from bankers and reprint verbiage that reflects this smoke and mirrors spin.  For instance, in the article linked above the following quote is presented:

“The pricing changes reflect the costs of doing business and staying competitive with other banks, as well as balancing the needs of its customers, SunTrust spokesman Hugh Suhr stated in an email.”

However, as can be seen in documents posted on SunTrust’s “Recent Earnings & Conference Presentations” page, the numbers I have presented below (a screenshot from this quarterly report) tell a different story than that of “woe is me“:

Quarterly income statement screenshot of SunTrust revenues


The aforementioned article also states that “over the last few years, changing financial regulations have cut into the revenue of big banks like SunTrust.”  Maybe.  But is it possible that “over the years bankers have threatened that regulations [against outrageous abuses, corruption, incompetence and greed, e.g., the mortgage meltdown] would be bad and that they are now making good on that promise by using every possible excuse to raise fees in the name of declining revenues”?  (One source of declining revenues might be people migrating to credit unions, you think?)

Reporters: DO YOUR JOB!  RESEARCH!


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If Chase did no wrong, why did it settle for $100 million dollars?

This site (operated by the Garden City Group, which provides legal administrative services) gives details about the Chase “minimum payment” lawsuit.

For those who are interested, here is a direct link to the site’s Court Documents page.  I find Chase’s response in the “Chase’s Answer to Master Class Action Complaint” document most interesting, in that it repeatedly denies any responsibility for its actions against the plaintiffs (and/or class members).


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