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Missouri joins national investigation

September 28, 1999
By: Amanda Campbell
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri has joined a national task force formed to investigate whether banks are selling information about their customers' spending habits and credit limits to marketing firms who use the information to generate sales.

Last week a representative for Attorney General Jay Nixon met in New York with attorneys general from other states in the task force to coordinate efforts for the inquiry, Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said. Dozens of states are said to be involved.

Holste said the results of the probe will determine whether the attorneys general will take action in concert or if Nixon will act alone.

"We will look at what practices are taking place in other states and we will decide whether we will take specific Missouri action or if we will take a multi-state action," Holste said. "Nothing has been filed yet but you can look for action by this office in the near future."

Holste said he did not know what banks were being investigated. However, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the banks being investigated include: New York-based Citigroup Inc.; Bank One Corp., based in Chicago; Wells Fargo and Co., based in San Francisco; and U.S. Bancorp, based in Minneapolis.

Spokespeople for Boone County National Bank, UMB Bank and First National Bank & Trust Company said the banks do not release information about their customers. Attempts to reach officials at Commerce Bank and Mercantile Bank were unsuccessful.

The task force grew out of an investigation by the Minnesota Attorney General's office into direct-marketing pratices of U.S. Bancorp that agreed to pay $500,000 to Minnesota and $2.5 million to charities to settle that case.