JPMorgan to pay ex-prisoners $447,000 damages

JP Morgan

JPMorgan’s contract to provide debit cards to inmates released from federal prison may have backfired after a former convict raised a ruckus, reports The Independent.

The bank agreed to pay a total of $446,822 to thousands of ex-prisoners to settle a class-action law suit claiming JPMorgan ripped them off with $10 fees to withdraw money from a branch and $2 charges for using non-network chas machines, according to a filing on Monday in federal court in Philadelphia.

JPMorgan’s contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons was a scheme “to exploit one of the most vulnerable groups imaginable — releasees from federal corrections facilities,” according to the complaint. “Every cent counts for federal releasees who are coming out of prison without an immediate means of income.”

The New York-based bank also agreed to pay as much as $250,000 in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs, the filing said. The relatively small payout to inmates, which almost 50,000 ex-cons qualify to share in, doesn’t faze the lead plaintiff in the case, 33-year-old Philadelphia artist Jesse Krimes.

“It’s about the principle of the matter, and setting a precedent for future litigation against similar predatory practices,” said Krimes, who made artwork from prison-issued sheets and soap while serving six years after pleading guilty to distributing cocaine.

“I left prison with $120,” an unidentified former inmate said in the complaint. “Because of the fees, I was only able to use about $70 of it.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney David Stanoch said the settlement will return the fees charged to inmates under the contract, including 45 cents for balance inquiries and a $1.50 inactivity charge that the bank couldn’t justify in court.

“It’s unclear what, if anything, these fees are tethered to in terms of cost or administration of the program,” Stanoch said of the inactivity charge. “It’s simply money sitting there and not requiring Chase to do anything.”

Joseph Evangelisti, a spokesman for JPMorgan, declined to comment on the settlement.

Krimes said that while the idea behind the debit cards may have been reasonable, the bank’s behavior was ultimately predatory and illegal.