Arab group files bank account closures lawsuit

By Corey WIlliams

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- An Ohio-based bank improperly closed business and personal accounts of hundreds of people of Middle Eastern descent, an Arab-American civil rights organization said last Thursday as it announced a lawsuit against the company.

The Arab-American Civil Rights League filed a lawsuit last Thursday against Huntington Bank in U.S. District Court in Detroit, according to attorney Nabih Ayad.

The organization announced the lawsuit at its Dearborn office just outside Detroit. It said it has received complaints from hundreds of people in the Detroit area and elsewhere who say that their accounts at Huntington Bank were closed for no apparent reason. Huntington informed Arab American account holders by letter that the accounts were being closed but gave no other explanations, the Arab-American Civil Rights League said.

"March 2013 was 'close the Arab American bank account month,'" Ayad said, referring to the complaints.

Some complaints have been received from people living in Ohio, Texas and California. Huntington Bank is based in Columbus, Ohio. According to its website, Huntington operates offices and more than 660 branches in six states: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

Huntington Bank is reviewing the matter, but declined to comment on pending legal issues, said spokeswoman Maureen Brown.

"However, Huntington appreciates the opportunity to do business within the Arab-American community, in greater Detroit and all our other markets," Brown said last Thursday in a statement.

Huntington isn't the only bank that's been accused of closing accounts of Arab Americans.

In June, the Southfield-based Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter asked the U.S. Treasury Department to investigate JPMorgan Chase & Co. for closing bank accounts of U.S. Arabs and Muslims.

A JPMorgan Chase spokeswoman told The Associated Press at that time that she was unaware of the complaints but would look into them.

Treasury Office of the Currency spokesman Bryan Hubbard said his department also would look into the allegations.

Published: Mon, Jul 15, 2013