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Michigan Arab American's claim accuses bank of discrimination

A group of Arab American Michigan residents allege that a bank discriminated against them by closing their accounts without explanation, according to a class action lawsuit recently filed on their behalf in a U.S. District Court in Detroit. The representative for the defendant in the recent claim said he could not comment on pending litigation, but stressed that bank's gratefulness at being able to service Detroit's Arab American community.

The discrimination lawsuit asserts that bank officials repeatedly closed clients' accounts due to reasons of race, national origin, ethnicity and religion, though it also claims the bank never provided any explanation for the closures. The suit demands that the court issue a restraining order that would prohibit the bank from closing any accounts associated with the plaintiffs in retaliation for the legal action.

Advocates say this marks the latest in a decade-long string of Arab American Muslims reporting discrimination from financial institutions. A newly formed group from Dearborn, a Michigan community known for its high Muslim population, recently issued a statement claiming it has heard complaints of similar bank closings with no explanation from hundreds of local Arab American citizens. The statement did not specify whether these complaints regarded the same financial institution, though the class action lawsuit only specifies one bank.

Many American banks have been pressured to close accounts deemed suspicious by the U.S. Department of the Treasury following the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001. In addition to a number of other effects, that legislation requires financial institutions to carefully scrutinize accounts in order to detect patterns that might point to terrorist involvement. While this has been successful in curbing the flow of some funds to extremist groups, civil rights advocates argue that it been used unfairly against Arab Americans.

Organizations and businesses found guilty of discrimination can face harsh penalties, such as fines and government restrictions. This makes it important for such institutions to consult with attorneys experienced in commercial and business litigation to ensure their rights and interests are properly defended in court or settlement talks.

Source:  Detroit Free Press, "Lawsuit alleges bank shut down Arab Americans' account for no reason" Niraj Warikoo, Jul. 11, 2013

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