New York AG, Capital One Agree On Credit Screening Changes

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced an agreement with Capital One Financial Corporation that will require the bank to adopt new policies regarding the screening of consumers seeking to open checking or savings accounts.

The deal resulted from an investigation launched in mid-2013 by Schneiderman’s office into screenings used by major banks performed by credit bureaus like ChexSystems, the company used by Capital One. When a consumer applies for a bank account, ChexSystems conducts a review of the individual’s banking history. If ChexSystems declares that an applicant presents a credit or fraud risk, a bank will typically deny the application, the AG said.

According to Schneiderman, the screenings may have an adverse impact on lower-income applicants or those who might have fallen victim to identity theft, reducing their access to the banking system and “forcing them to resort to fringe banking services that are more costly than mainstream checking and savings accounts.” An estimated 3 million New Yorkers are considered unbanked or underbanked, he added.

In the first agreement arising from the investigation, Capital One agreed to implement nationwide policy changes by the end of 2014 that Schneiderman said “will allow many thousands more New Yorkers and consumers nationwide to open bank accounts by the end of this year.” While the bank will continue to screen customers for past fraud, it promised not to allow the system to predict whether a customer presents a credit risk.

Capital One also made a $50,000 donation to the state’s Office of Financial Empowerment, an agency that provides counseling for applicants rejected by banks on the basis of a credit bureau report.

To read the AG’s office press release about the agreement, click here.

Why it matters: The agreement between Schneiderman and Capital One is the first to result from the investigation and the AG suggested that additional banks could be in the crosshairs. “Equal access is the least we can do to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to widely used services such as our nation’s banking system,” he said in a statement. “I commend Capital One for stepping up and working with us to help eliminate an unnecessary barrier to opening a checking or savings account. I would hope other banks will step up and join us to do the same.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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