VOL. 132 | NO. 79 | Thursday, April 20, 2017
Court OKs $16.8M Settlement in First Tennessee Bank Class-Action Suit
By Andy Meek
Shelby County Circuit Court Judge Mary Wagner has approved an agreement to settle a class-action lawsuit against First Tennessee Bank related to overdraft fees that calls for the bank to put $16.8 million into a settlement fund.
The case was approaching the six-year mark when attorneys for both sides appeared in Circuit Court Thursday, April 20, for the final hearing to approve the settlement. Jeff Ostrow, a Florida-based attorney for the plaintiffs, said it had been “an incredibly hard-fought case,” with “an unbelievable opponent who fought us at every turn.”
That fight was over the way First Tennessee posted debit card transactions from the highest dollar amount to the lowest. The plaintiffs in the case argued that led to “an increased number of overdraft fees assessed to customers.”
First Tennessee maintains it did nothing wrong and followed applicable laws and regulations, although it has changed its practice of posting from high to low.
Ostrow said affected members of the class don’t have to take extra steps to benefit from the settlement fund; once customers are deemed eligible, they’ll get their share via either direct deposit or a check mailed to them.
“We’re extremely pleased with the settlement,” he said about the case, which included 18 depositions, adding that no money would go back to the bank if anything is left over after the disbursements.
Plaintiffs William and Sylvia Hawkins brought the suit on Sept. 6, 2011. The dates the suit covers are Sept. 6, 2005, through Feb. 20, 2013.
A First Tennessee representative was not immediately available for comment. However, the bank previously noted that not only has it followed all laws and regulations in its overdraft assessments, but the “high-to-low” practice was once a common banking industry practice. First Tennessee has also since changed the way it handles those transactions.
A website related to the settlement, firsttennesseebankoverdraftlitigation.com, includes relevant case documents and other questions that settlement participants need to know. Among other things, it also includes a “Payment Estimator” tab that lets class members estimate the share of the settlement fund they could get using a unique identifying number they received via postcard.
Attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses awarded to the class counsel will come out of the settlement, as well as other relevant costs, expenses and awards.
The exact amount members of the settlement will receive is still being determined.