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Elder Abuse: Determining Bank Responsibility

Financial exploitation can happen to anyone of us, but the elderly are especially vulnerable to such mayhem. How do we prevent elder financial abuse in our communities and promote an ethic of responsibility? We must focus not only on individuals, but also on community institutions - and banks are key players in any effort to protect our seniors from wrongdoing.

Bank and credit union personnel can make a significant positive contribution in the fight against elder abuse. After all, bank tellers are on the front line of fraud detection and are often the first to notice any irregularities in a customer account, details that could indicate financial exploitation. Yet if a bank fails in its responsibility to protect elders, it should be held accountable if found negligent or guilty of other offenses.

Bank responsibility is the exact issue in question in a recent case out of San Francisco. Doreen and Robert Bodeker, 76 and 74 respectively, have filed suit against JP Morgan Chase Bank for elder abuse, breach of financiary duty, negligence, and other violations. The Bodeckers are suing Chase over the actions of one of its former branch managers in Noe Valley, Mansoor Rahmani, who is alleged to have influenced the couple to loan $278,000 home equity credit to him in 2009. In 2013, however, Rahmani went bankrupt, and the Bodekers have been left to pay off his debt.

Since Rahmani is shielded by bankruptcy, the Bodekers are calling Chase to account, saying they lost over $200,000 from the bad loan. During the time that Rahmani convinced them to shift their equity credit over to his business, the two plaintiffs were "elderly, fragile and in ill health and were subject to undue influence." Part of that undue influence, they allege, was "cultivation of a personal relationship" with Doreen that included baby showers and wedding invitations. Robert, meanwhile, had suffered a stroke in 2008 and underwent rehabilitation until 2010.

The Bodekers argue that Chase should carry responsibility for what they call Rahmani's reckless behavior, and that there are no excuses for this system failure. Will Chase be found liable? If the bank doesn't reach a settlement, then let the jurors decide.

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