Since the posting of this article, I was contacted by Navistar’s Benefits Group. They acknowledged that the money removed from my father’s account was in error. All the money removed from my father’s account was posted to his account this morning. I want to thank Navistar’s benefit group, the wonderful members of the UAW and former employees who have reached out in support, and all of my friends and family who have reached out and supported us during this most stressful time.
My father worked for International Harvester, now Navistar, Inc., for 30 years and retired with a pension that he had to fight to receive at all as a member of the United Auto Worker’s Union. He has been retired for 27 years.
He worked as a machinist in the Melrose Park, IL plant since before I was born. He would be up every morning at about 4:30 am and was out the door. We didn’t see him again until 4:15 pm that day. I don’t remember him EVER missing a day of work. He was and IS a proud member of the United Auto Workers and I remember growing up they had to fight the management tooth and nail for every pay raise and every bit of a pension that they almost didn’t receive.
Finally, he retired to Michigan in 1993 and has been receiving a modest monthly pension check until something horrible happened on February 24, 2020.
My father and his wife of almost 54 years have battled and continue to battle significant health issues. They were in a Ludington, MI Walmart on February 25th and were paying for groceries with a check that was declined. My parents have probably never bounced a check in their life. Walmart said they would have to take it up with their local PNC branch.
They immediately went to the Ludington, MI branch of PNC bank and they were told that their bank account was negative by over $33,000.00
Obviously there was some mistake! Something easily corrected. Nope.
Navistar had, in the course of one day, tried to remove 45 monthly pension payments without any notification or authorization.
Well, my parents obviously didn’t have that much money in the bank so they took everything they had including a $500.00 overdraft protection account that up until then they had never had to use. Well that started a domino effect of other checks bouncing and more overdraft fees occurring until it had reached a grand total of $33,869.78 overdrawn.
The manager of the Ludington, MI branch of PNC bank attempted to call a retiree hotline of Navistar to try to rectify the situation. They called the Employee / Retiree Information Center (E.R.I.C.) at 1-877-353-5100 and pressed the number for Retiree Benefits. A woman from Northern Trust (The bank handling deposits) stated that they have nothing to do with Pension payments and they would have to dial 7 but there wouldn’t be anyone in the office because they are only part time. The Bank Manager stated that my parents would have to come back in a week when there was someone in the office.
My parents at this point called me about the problem and I assumed that it was probably a clerical error that could be easily fixed. The people at PNC said that they would obviously reverse any overdraft fees or NSF fees and they would start a dispute of the debits to the account.
The person on the phone, who probably wasn’t named ERIC, said that Navistar showed by my father and his twin brother, who was also a Navistar retiree, as deceased. My father and his twin obviously share the same birthdate and their social security numbers are only 1 number off. My uncle did pass away five years ago on February 24th which is coincidentally the same day and month that Navistar stole the money from my father’s bank account.
The manager said that he was sitting with my father and he was very much alive. The person on the phone stated that they would start an investigation but it might take a long time. They did not have any idea when the mistake would be corrected.
The bank manager told the person that it was unacceptable but that really didn’t make a difference. All they received was an issue number.
My parents asked how without authority or notification some entity can simply empty out a bank account. They were told that if someone has your bank account and routing number they can remove what they want and the bank can’t stop them. Hmmmm. I don’t think that is true but since I am not a bank manager I can’t say for sure.
The bank manager suggested they should set up another meeting in a week and make another phone call to the same E.R.I.C. Meanwhile, the bank would start an investigation and dispute the charges to the account.
My father called me in a couple of days when he received three letters from PNC bank on March 16th that stated that the three charges of $818.71 on February 24th were already returned on February 25th so no further action would be taken. WHAT? I told my father to go to the bank (They don’t do online banking) and get a printout of the account and the balance. Maybe the money was back in.
He went to the bank and the account was still ridiculously in the negative. He showed them the letters and they told him that no money was returned to the account.
He also received a call from E.R.I.C. who said that if my father could mail them a copy of my uncle’s death certificate he might be able to get his money back faster! In fact, he could mail the death certificate to their P.O. Box in Lisle and simply write their issue number on the death certificate. WHAT? Death Certificates are government documents that are not public information. If you are not the next of kin and do not have a legal interest in the document the County Clerk’s office will not issue you a copy. Besides, why would proving my uncle is dead help prove my dad isn’t and why should we break the law and give a legal document to an entity that didn’t think twice about unlawfully emptying your bank account?
At this point, I decided I needed to get involved. Things weren’t making sense. I drove to Michigan. It only takes about five hours. I have been telling my parents who are extremely susceptible to this virus to try to stay home and now I have to drag them out to try to get a power of attorney so that I can try to sort things out.
I had the documents in hand and now had to find a notary. That was fun. No banks would do it unless you had an account and most government offices and courthouses were closed. Finally, I found a wonderful woman at the Mason County Courthouse who said that she would come out to the car to notarize the documents so that my parents didn’t have to come inside.
We drove the 30 minutes to the courthouse and had the documents signed. I told my dad to drive my mom home and I would speak with the bank.
At first, the teller I talked to said that they couldn’t talk to me even though I had a power of attorney until they sent them to their legal office for approval and that could take five days. I told them that wouldn’t work. I finally spoke with a woman who was not the manager but my parents remembered her fondly.
She made copies of the powers of attorney but still couldn’t talk to me so I asked her if she could call my father at home and talk directly to him. She did make the phone call and verified my father’s identity and made a printout of the statement.
I asked her about the confusion regarding the three payments being replaced when they weren’t and she explained that only 3 of the 45 payments removed from the account were disputed because they assumed the first three were the correct ones. She said that she would contact a local PNC branch as soon as she received confirmation from their legal department regarding my power of attorney and that I could work with my local PNC branch to correct the situation.
Keep in mind that I had fully researched (that’s what I do for a living) the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (15 USC 1693).
In a nutshell, one protection the consumer has is that once a financial institution is notified of an error, either orally or written the institution must start an investigation that can take up to 30 days. Once an error has been identified the bank has 24 hours to replace the money. In the event they can’t figure it out within 10 days they have to at least provisionally place the money back until the investigation is complete. None of this happened.
So, I made sure that my parents had enough food and medical supplies for a little while and returned home to Illinois with my powers of attorney to attempt to speak with Navistar, Inc. I mean how hard would that be. Their world headquarters is 20 minutes from me in Lisle, IL.
I gathered my documents and drove to Lisle on March 18th (this morning) I pulled into the parking lot and decided to speak with E.R.I.C. one more time before I went in. I mean the woman on the phone and their website said that they would be in the office at this time. I could wave to them from the parking lot.
I called the number and pressed 7 to make sure I didn’t get the people from Northern Trust. I was greeted with a recorded message about how important I was and that all the representatives were busy assisting other customers. I could continue to hold. I did. After about 10 minutes I was automatically transferred to a voice mail instructing me to leave my information and that the phone call would be returned promptly in 7 days. O.K.
I decided to venture into the hot zone of Navistar corporate headquarters and see what type of runaround I would get there.
I was greeted by an impressive lobby the size of a small town with a reception desk and a hand sanitizing station. I spoke with a very nice lady and explained my situation. She actually looked like she was going to cry. I probably gave her way too much information about what was going on and she simply looked at me and told me that the only people who were working were facility services and they probably wouldn’t be able to help. She gave me a Navistar brochure with their main corporate number. She said I could have a seat and call the number and see what would happen. O.K.
I passed by an empty glass suggestion/opinion box on my 15-minute walk to the waiting room chair. There were blank suggestion sheets and a pen. A little voice in my head, probably God, told me not to.
I called the number and a person answered! I explained the situation and the person suggested I call E.R.I.C. I told her I had and they would promptly call me back in 7 days. She apologized and said if you give me your info and your father’s info I will have someone physically look for a human being to help you and call you back. I told her I was in the lobby of the corporate headquarters and could wait for a little while. The call never came in.
Today my father’s and mother’s social security checks were deposited in their PNC account and are gone because the account was negative, to begin with. The Pension has stopped their monthly payments and has stopped paying my father’s Medicare supplement insurance because he is supposedly deceased.
So basically my parents who are not rich by any means but for the richness of their hearts have been without money since February 24th (almost a month now) checks have bounced, payments are late, and they are even more stressed out than most of us already are during this pandemic.
If you are reading this and are in a position of authority in Navistar please respond. If you are a member of the United Auto Worker’s Union (UAW) please give us some advice. If you are an attorney with some advice please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org According to the ETFA your fees would be paid but there is no recourse for any big settlement so it might not be worth your time.
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