PNC Customers Win Class Certification in Overdraft Suit

PNC Bank NA (PNC) customers won court permission to proceed as a class in their lawsuit challenging allegedly excessive overdraft fees.

PNC, based in Pittsburgh, is accused of using software to re-sequence customer transactions from highest to lowest, causing accounts to be depleted faster and triggering more overdrafts. PNC denies wrongdoing. At least 30 banks have cases before U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King in Miami, who awarded the PNC class certification in an order today.

“The court finds that the class is adequately defined and readily ascertainable,” King wrote in the order. “Each plaintiff’s claim arises from the same course of conduct engaged in by PNC.”

Other banks in the litigation have reached settlements. Toronto Dominion Bank (TD) announced a preliminary agreement to pay $62 million to settle overdraft claims. Last month, Citizens Bank agreed to pay $137.5 million. In February, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the biggest U.S. bank by assets, reached an agreement for $110 million.

King said lumping the cases into a class action was the most efficient way to handle them.

‘So Small’

“Nearly all of the class members in this case have claims that are so small that it would cost them much more to litigate an individual case than they could ever hope to recover in damages, and thus there is no reason to believe that the putative class members in this case have any particular interest in controlling their own litigation,” he wrote.

Fred Solomon, a PNC spokesman, said the bank “typically does not comment on litigation.”

Bruce Rogow, one of the lead attorneys for the customers, said he was pleased with the ruling.

“It follows the law and it follows all of the other cases that have been certified as class actions,” he said.

The case is In re Checking Account Overdraft Litigation, 09-md-02036, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susannah Nesmith in Miami at susannahnesmith@yahoo.com.

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

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