THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Stephen Lerner Headshot

Headed to the Bank? Tell Bank Employees About New Whistleblower Protections

Posted: Updated:

Did you know the new Wall Street reform law includes protections for front-line bank workers to blow the whistle on harmful financial products?

That means tellers, personal bankers, credit card call center workers and mortgage specialists can now be our first line of defense against the predatory, harmful and sometimes illegal banking practices and products that crashed the economy.

SEIU launched a new campaign today to make sure bank employees are aware of their new rights and protections.

We all need to start taking this new bank employee whistleblower card with us whenever we go to our bank to cash a check or make a deposit. Make sure every bank employee knows they are on the front lines for the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

We consistently hear from bank employees that they're forced to push unsafe and unnecessary products on to customers to meet quotas and keep their jobs. They're told to target the elderly, immigrants, and students. They're pushed to maximize customer debt and deny customers lower interest rates they may qualify for or the modifications they need to save their homes. And their pay is directly connected with the number of products that they sell.

We need to put an end to these practices. And we need to stop big banks and the rest of the Wall Street firms from devising ways to go around new credit card laws and protections against overdraft charges.

That's why these new protections are so important. Make sure the employees at your bank know about their new rights. And let them know how important it is for them to report harmful and predatory practices to the CFPB as they happen. Tell them the CFPB needs to hear about:

•Predatory mortgage tactics such as the ones that caused the subprime mortgage bubble and today's housing crisis;
• Pressure from management to sell credit cards and other banking products with unfair rates or traps in the fine print;
• Pressure to mislead customers about the dangers and risks associated with credit cards, mortgages, "overdraft protections" and other products;
• Pressure to discriminate against elderly, minority, military or student customers; and
• New products designed to push consumers further into debt.

We need to use these cards at every bank to ensure bad banking practices do not exist.

For New Englanders, a good place to start would be Sovereign Bank, a subsidiary of the Spanish bank Santander. The Financial Times recently reported that Santander has emerged as the bank with the highest proportion of customer complaints in the UK, with a complaint coming in every minute during the first half of this year. The Spanish bank is looking to increase its foothold in the United States, where they have denied workers a voice on the job to speak out for consumers, cut staff, and expect employees to push questionable products just to meet sales goals. We need to ensure this bank is held to a higher standard.

Print out the bank employee whistleblower card today and make sure bank employees know they can now serve their customers, not overpaid CEOs.

Bank employees can visit action.seiu.org/bankwatch to learn more about the new law.