It looks like Bank of America might have started circling the drain before the Occupy movement even had a chance to launch its campaign against the company. For weeks now there have been ominous signs of trouble at the bank, and yesterday we heard yet another dark piece of news.
Last year, there was an uproar when Bank of America announced a plan to slap customers with a monthly $5 fee for debit card usage. The bank eventually backed off that plan when the public and some politicians cried foul.
Pilot programs in Arizona, Georgia and Massachusetts are experimenting with charging $6 to $9 a month for what’s called an “Essentials” account. Other account options being tested in those states carry monthly charges of $9, $12, $15 and $25, but give customers opportunities to avoid the payments by maintaining minimum balances, using a credit card or taking a mortgage with Bank of America, according to an internal memo cited by the [Wall Street] Journal.
It’s a very bad sign that a bank is in a desperate cash crunch when it tries repeatedly to gouge its customers. David Trainer, an analyst for Market Watch, a WSJ publication, wrote that the new fees are a sign of series trouble at BAC. He writes:
In my opinion, there are four actions taken by financial services that signal the company is headed to serious trouble.
1. Management shake-up and major layoffs - lots of layoffs over the past year
2. Exploiting accounting rules to boost earnings - SFAS 159
3. Drawing down reserves to boost earnings: to the tune of $13.3 billion in 2011 and 2012
4. Bilking customers with new fees: tried it before and trying it again