Whitney Bank Will Pay $6.8 Million to End Case on Overdraft Checking Fees

Hancock Holding Co. (HBHC)’s Whitney Bank reached a preliminary agreement to pay $6.8 million to settle litigation claiming that it gouged customers on overdraft fees for checking accounts, court records show.

The settlement would resolve claims by customers including Angelique LaCour of California, who sued the New Orleans-based bank over fees charged to debit cards attached to her checking account. The proposed settlement will be filed with the federal court in Tampa, Florida, within 45 days, records show.

“The recovery is excellent for customers, and it offers them the easiest process to get paid,” Jeffrey Ostrow, LaCour’s attorney, said in a telephone interview. LaCour’s complaint sought group, or class-action, status.

“While the company admits no wrongdoing, in order to fully and finally resolve the litigation and avoid significant costs and expenses that would be involved in defending the case as well as the distraction caused by the litigation, Whitney Bank has entered into an agreement in principle,” the bank said today in a regulatory filing.

At least 30 banks have been sued over their overdraft-fee policies. The customers say the banks reorder debit-card transactions in their computers to maximize overdraft fees. Bank of America Corp. (BAC), the second-biggest U.S. bank by assets, agreed last year to pay $410 million without admitting liability to settle an overdraft lawsuit brought by its customers.

The case is Angelique LaCour v. Whitney Bank, 11-cv-1896, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida (Tampa).

To contact the reporter on this story: David Voreacos in Newark, New Jersey, at dvoreacos@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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