You know why I’m glad I have coworkers? So I can get a break from customers like this.
Let me set the scene for you: It’s the middle of the afternoon, the bank filled with people who apparently don’t have day jobs, a customer at my desk and part of my mind wondering when I’m going to have time to finally sit down and write a blog post since my last one might be a tad outdated, when all of a sudden I hear this at the desk next to me:
“Federal law states………………..”
Uh oh, what’s going on? I’m keeping an ear over at the desk next to me in case I have to swoop in and solve a problem. The banker had already been a magnet for the nastily needy nimrod customers of the day so far, so it wouldn’t have been the first time.
The customer is standing up and–okay seriously, you’ve really gotta put the mental image in your head. It’s pretty damned funny. The guy’s so animated–he’s got one hand holding his index finger up in the classic “I’m smart and quoting a fact” pose. He’s this smallish guy with these thick glasses that scream either “professor” or “accountant”. Even his tone of voice. “Federal LAW states………………….”
Thank you, animated stereotypes! You grant me great joy sometimes.
Of course, the representative next to me wasn’t feeling that same joy. The guy was getting a bit obnoxious with her, lecturing her as she sat down at her desk, unable to do anything but take it and knowing full well that putting the customer in his place could cost her her job and, more importantly, her paycheck. Definitely a reminder of why I need to retire early; there’s nothing more dangerous, financially speaking, than being beholden to the whims of your employer and the general public.
So anyhoo, what was going on over there? Well, I didn’t have to hear the whole conversation to realize that we had a Google Law Professor on our hands.
What Is A Google Law Professor?
A Google Law Professor is a slang term that’s been making its way around the Internet since, well, as soon as I publish this post. Yeah, I’m the one coining it. Dibs on copyright!
A Google Law Professor © is someone who thinks they are a legal expert, but in actuality only have a cursory and often inaccurate grasp on the law because their entire knowledge of it comes from a quick couple of Google searches that brought up results posted by random Internet users who got their information from the same Google search. Related to the Facebook Political Analyst and the WebMD M.D., the Google Law Professor mistakes their access to a wide treasure trove of unsorted legal information with the expertise than can only come from years of intensive study at a prestigious law school.
We get a bunch of them sometimes over on the Reddit banking subreddit. You get “experts” whose idea of good advice is to have people report their bank to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for every little overdraft fee they get. Supposedly, the bank “violated the LAW!!!!” whenever they charge you a fee or mildly inconvenience you in your own mind.
Every time one of them mentions the law, I just want to yell “LAWWW!!!” right back at them like Rico in that scene from Judge Dredd. You know the one.
But anyhoo, enough about that. The Google Law Professor is getting all pissy with my coworker. I’m trying to hear what he’s talking about. What is the issue that has him giving my coworker a free legal course during her time at work?
“Federal law states that banks have to give statements for savings accounts at least once every 60 days, in order for people to be able to check their finances and have time to report fraud. Of course, ever since the financial crisis, banks have been raising fees in order to bail out their mortgage divisions, so I’m not surprised to see them do everything they can to avoid having to give any money back.”
Wow! This guy gave my coworker not only a full rundown of the law, but also a comprehensive history and legal reasoning behind current banking regulation! And he did it all for free! How many people are paying a law school for the same education that this man, in his infinite charity, is bestowing on my coworker without even demanding tuition payment or crippling student loan debt.
What happened? Did Bernie Sanders get elected President while I wasn’t looking? Did he manage to pass free college and law school through Congress? If that’s the case, where do I go to get my diploma? My coworker should be receiving hers in the mail soon.
In all seriousness, it sounds like the Google Law Professor is talking about Federal Reserve Regulation E. At least, I assume so with him bringing up 60 day limits and banks doing “everything they can to avoid having to give any money back”.
Of course, being a Google Law Professor and not someone with actual banking–
“I’ve spent 25 years in banking and investment services. I know the law!”
Um, wow, okay. Uhh, alright. First off, “LAWWWW!!!!”
Second off, no you didn’t. You absolutely did not work 25 years, 25 months, or 25 minutes in banking and investment services. Because then you would know the LAWWWW!!!!
What Is Reg E?
Federal Reserve Regulation E, or Reg E for short, basically regulates electronic banking transactions (ATM, debit card, online, and recurring transactions primarily). It also lays out the guidelines for liabilities in cases of errors or fraud in electronic transactions.
What he seems to be talking about is the 60 day time limit for making a claim. If you check out Page 13 of the Reg E link I put up, you’ll see that if you discover an unauthorized electronic transaction on your account (which is usually a debit card transaction) and you report it within 60 days of it appearing on an official statement, the bank must investigate it and refund the money if it determines that the transaction truly was unauthorized. If the customer waits until after 60 days has elapsed, then the customer is out of luck.
Those are one of the many reasons I keep urging everybody to keep an eye on their bank statement. It’s even one of the five simple ways to protect your debit card that I laid out way back when there was actually no one reading this blog (as opposed to now where it’s just practically no one reading it). It’s not just to avoid fees that we charge you, but it’s also to make sure that you catch fraudulent transactions in time to make a claim and get your money returned to you.
Why he’s talking about savings account statements is beyond me.
What Is Reg E NOT?
And this is where the problem with being a Google Law Professor as opposed to someone who actually knows banking laws (like a banker) comes into play.
It seems as though the few people who know about the 60 day rule have misinterpreted it to mean that if they place a claim within 60 days, the bank must automatically return their money.
Why anyone would think that is beyond me, but that’s the general public for you. People actually think that the bank is going to go “Oh sure, let me just give you back $200 just because you said that you didn’t authorize it. We’re not going to investigate it because, being our customer, you are inherently a paragon of virtue whose lips are incapable of uttering falsehoods. Take your $200, great paladin, and go forth into the world! Use thine debit card to get that which your pure heart desires without financial sacrifice, for we will gladly put our gold back into your purse by your honorable request!”
I really like how that just naturally turned from normal human speak into bad Dungeons & Dragons roleplay.
You aren’t guaranteed anything other than an investigation, though the investigation must be in good faith. Just because you are a customer, or just because you made the claim within 60 days, doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to get your money back. It only guarantees you your money if the bank’s investigation finds that your claim isn’t false.
Don’t roll your eyes. I had a customer once come in flipping out because his Reg E claim was denied by the bank. He claimed that he didn’t go to “Bob’s Fancy Restaurant” or wherever and demanded that I reopen the investigation. So I contacted back office and actually managed to get in touch with the investigator (this wasn’t right away; I promised the customer a follow up phone call with the results), who forwarded me an image of the signed restaurant receipt! Yup, the signatures matched.
I didn’t even grant the customer the courtesy of that promised follow up call. Sue me.
A woman not too long ago was fighting with the supervisor because the bank denied her claim. She kept interrupting and hearing what she wanted to hear, eventually granting us the gem of “Why are you trusting the merchant over me!? I’m your customer!”
That’s nice. And?
Listen, I’m not trying to say that every denied Reg E claim is due to the customer trying to get one over on the bank or something. I’m not trying to imply that the banks are infallible. They’re not. Mistakes get made. And a bank can only do so much of an investigation when it doesn’t have any actual law enforcement authority, regardless of how much cooperation it has from any law enforcement agencies.
But the idea that you are automatically entitled to your money back by virtue of having asked for it back is simply ludicrous. Beyond ludicrous. It’s stupid. And if you think the bank is just going to up and give you $1,000 or whatever simply because you identified yourself as a customer (yeah, we know you’re a customer. That’s why we have to deal with you), then I don’t know what to tell you.
I actually get people all the time who ask me, with genuine shock, “Wait, so you’re saying that it’s possible for the bank to deny my claim?” They actually ask me that! Unironically! Are you goddamned kidding me!? Why would you think that it isn’t possible!?
As for the victims and “victims”, I can tell you that dealing with them is very difficult and only serves to make an investigation more difficult. People often come in without any idea of where they’ve been in the past few months. I’m serious; I’ll see transactions conducted in another state and ask if the customer was in that state, and the customer literally won’t be able to give me an answer! I’ll see transactions for large and specific amounts like $592.63 and the customer “can’t remember” if he/she did anything for that amount. How do you forget that!?
And people are just flat out lazy and careless. Here’s someone who tries to say that the banks are clueless but tells us he doesn’t check his statements for months at a time. Due to being “a busy guy”. Bulls***. No one is so busy that they can’t take ten minutes to look at their bank statements once a month.
“No wonder they get away with it” indeed.
There’s not much more I can say. The Google Law Professor seems to believe that Reg E (if he even knows what Reg E is) entitles him to his money back automatically if he reports an unauthorized transaction within 60 days, if my interpretation of his impromptu Internet-accredited educational seminar is correct. In reality, these claims are more complex than that.
But that’s it, right? This guy was complaining that his debit card claim was denied and trying to intimidate the banker with his bogus interpretation of the law and his supposed decades of experience in the financial field? Right?
No. It turns out, I’m giving the Google Law Professor way too much credit.
Look At Those Double D’s!!!!
So I went to my coworker later in the day to crack jokes about this guy. Did I mention in the past that we do that, by the way? Make fun of the nasty customers? Yeah, we do that. So if you’re going to be one of those customers, just understand that you’re going to be the butt of our jokes for a long time.
And, also, I’m going to talk about you on the Internet for all the world to see. And give you nicknames like “the Google Law Professor”.
Anyhoo, I asked my coworker if he was trying to bully his into getting his money refunded or if he was actually retarded. After all, we do get people that try to pull the “Well, if this bank doesn’t want to give back my money, then perhaps I’ll just have to close my account” shtick as if that doesn’t make us root for a claim denial even more.
Oh no, this was even better.
He didn’t have any unauthorized transactions or any problems with his account at all. He just wanted to get savings account statements every month and was going to bully the representative into complying, despite the fact that that’s not an option that we have.
He wanted the representative to know that the bank was violating federal law by only sending out savings account statements every 90 days instead of every 60 days, and that he was going to have a “nice long talk” with our branch manager and “make” him get his account switched over to monthly statements.
“OMFG!!!!!!! Like, really!? For rizzle, bizzle!? We’ve been violating federal law the whole time!? Oh thank God and my momma that you came here to tell us this, Google Law Professor! It turns out that, despite the bank-wide teams of auditors that come in quarterly to make sure that there’s not a speck of dust that’s out of step with bank regulations, a dedicated Compliance Department that exists solely to make sure every action and every product and every tiny little piece of fine print in the advertising and disclosures follows all existing regulations, and outside regulatory agencies that monitor bank activity, somehow not a single employee, regulator, or even customer has caught this until today! It’s a good thing you were here to educate us on federal banking laws using your accredited search engine PhD. We’ll get this taken care of right away!” was the response he was expecting but never received.
Seriously, you don’t think that the bank might just know banking regulations better than you? That we know what we’re supposed to and not supposed to be doing?
If you’re going to make a big scene and sprout off federal law, then perhaps you should learn what it says.
You see, whereas I thought before he was talking about Reg E, he was actually talking about Reg DD. Reg DD, in this context at least, is much less complicated than Reg E and something that someone who’s supposedly been in banking and investment services for 25 years should know extremely well.
So what is Reg DD?
Along with establishing rules for things like quoting APY’s and the like, Federal Reserve Regulation DD, also known as “Truth In Savings”, mandates that banks provide “on a regular basis” statements for non-CD/non-passbook savings accounts a minimum of four times a year. For those of you who aren’t math majors, that comes out to one statement every 90 days, not 60.
Hmm, I guess it turns out this guy didn’t know the LAWWW!!!!
It’s Not Cool To Not Know What You’re Talking About
While Obama might have been talking about Trump and the Republicans in this speech, it can easily apply to anyone. The Google Law Professor–not just this specific guy, but the type of person that falls into this category–thinks they know what they’re talking about simply because they have access to Google.
Guess what? I have access to Google too. I also have constant bank-mandated training and years of experience.
I don’t claim to know everything. Even stuff I do know, I will try my best to source just to double check myself and to make it not look like I’m pulling made-up facts out of my nether regions. But, believe it or not, some of us do know our jobs. And the banks’ compliance teams definitely know what needs to be done to ensure that whatever the business does, it’s not violating the law and opening up a can of worms.
So don’t try to intimidate/impress us with your supposed knowledge of the law. That may work on a new banker who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. It won’t on the rest of us.
Readers–What do YOU think!? Have you dealt with the Google Law Professors in the past in your places of business, coming at you with made up regulations and store policies that they invented to suit themselves? How have you dealt with them? Have they ever got one over on you or your coworkers? Have any of them ever turned out to be right? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
P.S. So………..yeah it’s been almost two months since I’ve posted any content. And to that, I apologize. I’ve been busy lately. I work two jobs (I’m not just a banker) and I also in the last couple months have started my own business. Yup, I’m legally a corporate CEO now! It’s not finance-related but due to the anonymous nature of this blog, I’m not revealing any more than that. I just wanted to let my tens of fans out there know that I haven’t forgotten about you guys and haven’t lost the fire that fuels this blog. I still check and see dozens–often over a hundred–visitors on here daily. I get anywhere between 2,000 – 2,500 page views per month and growing, and I’m not about to let that change. I’m going to try to ensure that more content comes out for you guys in the future. Until then, subscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter.