Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Robbery Victim Sues Bank

A California man who was robbed after leaving a WaMu branch is suing the bank. He blames the bank's layout -- a departure from traditional bank design that puts tellers out at free-standing stations ("teller towers") rather behind a counter -- for the robbery, which took place outside the bank. Robbery victim blames WaMu design, Seattle Times, Oct. 3, 2006.

The customer took $20,805 in cash to the bank, planning to combine it with money from his line of credit to get a cashier's check to buy a piece of property. The teller left the cash sitting on her work surface (where other customers could see it), while she checked with the bank manager about accepting that much cash. They declined because the customer's driver's license had expired, suggesting that he renew his license and then return. He was robbed when he left the bank, by a man who had been inside the branch when the pile of cash was in the open.

A couple of legal tangents from this story:

  • Washington Mutual -- er, WaMu (the bank made its nickname its official name recently) -- got a patent on the style of layout that includes a concierge desk, teller towers, and so on. "System for providing enhanced systems management, such as in branch banking," Patent 6,681,985, Jan. 27, 2004.
  • The teller and manager were probably scrupulous about the man's ID because money-laundering laws require banks to report cash transactions over $10,000. See, e.g., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Money Laundering: A Banker's Guide to Avoiding Problems (Dec. 2002). The customer, a real estate investor, said the cash was from tenants' rent payments. He says that, even if the bank did have to send him away to get current ID, once it displayed his pile of cash to all in the lobby, it should have either held the money for him or at least had a security guard escort him to his car.
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