MONROE, Wash. - Mike and Meagan Farrell have been customers at their neighborhood bank on Highway 2 in Monroe for six years. First, when it was Washington Mutual and later, when it became Chase.
They're on a first name basis with the tellers and managers.
“It was our personal banking place, you know, one stop banking,” said Mike Farrell.
The Farrells not only had their checking and savings accounts at Chase; they had individual retirement accounts there, even a savings account for their 10-year-old daughter.
They had tens of thousands of dollars in the bank. And they were happy customers.
“We were considered platinum, premium customers,” said Meagan Farrell.
Then on Saturday, August 27, Meagan walked to the mailbox.
“I went and got the mail, and I opened it up, and I was mortified by what I read,” she said.
It was a letter from Chase.
“It says here [in the letter], ‘We are writing to notify you that we are closing your deposit accounts in accordance with your Chase deposit agreement terms and conditions,’" said Mike Farrell.
It was a one-page form letter that said, “Your account will be closed 10 business days from the date of this letter."
The letter set off a cascade of problems the Farrells are still recovering from. It instructed them to stop using their ATM debit cards and destroy them. Missing among all of the fine print and instructions was any reason for Chase’s drastic actions.
So the Farrells called the phone number on the letter and talked to customer service.
“They just told us, ‘We’re closing your account,’ and they said that they could not give us a reason why,” said Mike.
It was a weekend. So the Farrells figured their friends at the local branch in Monroe would be able to sort it all out on Monday. Yet when they arrived at the bank they’d always counted on, they were in for another shock.
"Our accounts were already frozen and they had already bounced all of our outstanding checks. Even though there was sufficient funds to cover everything," Meagan Farrell said.
The Farrells say the bankers were sympathetic but said that the decision had been made at the corporate level.
"They also seemed confused. The manager said they usually only see this sort of thing in cases of check fraud, which they knew that we weren't committing any check fraud," said Meagan.
Yet Chase was bouncing their checks.
Insult to injury
The Farrells are well-known in Monroe. Mike is the Director of the Monroe Parks and Recreation Department.
"It can ruin people's reputations. And this is an error,” he said.
Add to that, the Farrells bank account was frozen just when they needed to write checks for some big medical bills.
"I have Stage 2 breast cancer and I actually just finished treatments for that,” said Meagan. “Not that any time is a good time, but this is probably the worst time for us."
Meagan said the problems with Chase have added a lot of stress to their lives.
“And for no reason, we didn’t do anything wrong," she said.
Finally, five days after the Farrells got the startling letter, the Monroe branch unfroze their accounts.
But they still didn't know whether their credit rating had been harmed or why it had all happened in the first place.
So they contacted the KING5 Investigators.
"We're just hoping that you guys can maybe get some information first of all, but second of all we're really hoping to get the word out. If this can happen to us, this can happen to anyone,” Meagan said.
The KING 5 Investigators went to the Monroe branch for answers but were told to contact Corporate Communications. But they refused to discuss the Farrells case citing "privacy concerns.”
Later Chase sent this statement: "We apologized to Ms. Farrell for the confusing communication. At her request, we've reviewed her account, re-opened it [them] and will reimburse her for any fees she incurred," said JPMorgan Chase Spokesperson Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot.
The Farrells say it feels like too little, too late.
“Before this happened, you know, I felt like I could trust the bank and that was totally shattered,” said Mike.
Contrary to what's in the Chase Media Statement, the Farrells told KING 5 that they did not ask Chase to re-open their accounts and have no intention of using Chase Bank again. As for their credit score, Chase promised not to report the bounced checks or closed accounts to credit agencies. The Farrells said that they asked Chase to put that promise in writing but have received nothing.