A federal district judge in Washington tossed a lawsuit (PDF) yesterday that accused Bank of America of putting customers' financial data at risk of surveillance by the U.S. government by diverting service calls overseas.
The plaintiffs claimed that by sending calls to call centers in other countries where U.S. laws governing financial privacy don't apply, the bank was giving the National Security Agency potential access to private financial information without the customer's knowledge.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton found that the complaint failed to offer any proof that Bank of America had released or provided any financial documents to the federal government, let alone detail specific injury to the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs originally sued last August under the federal Right to Financial Privacy Act and local consumer protection laws, but dropped the local claims later that year. The bank moved to dismiss for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. Since Walton agreed that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing, he didn't need to address the other arguments.
"The plaintiffs' allegations are literally rooted in belief and suspicion, as these two words appear frequently in the Second Amended Complaint," Walton wrote. "And belief and suspicion are quite far from the "concrete and particularized," and "actual or imminent, not 'conjectural' or 'hypothetical' requirements of standing."
A spokesman for Bank of America, Lawrence Grayson, said that, "we are pleased with the court's decision." The bank was represented by a team from Morrison & Foerster.
Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Joseph Hennessey of Beins, Goldberg & Hennessey in Chevy Chase, Md., said today that he plans to appeal the order. "Standing is a very troublesome issue for the federal court and we will be appealing the ruling to determine the court of appeals' view on standing with respect to the Right to Financial Privacy Act," he said.
"If there is no remedy, it creates a very troubling situation in a globalized economy where electronic communications across borders essentially make meaningless the restrictions imposed by the Fourth Amendment and statutes such as the Right to Financial Privacy Act," he added.