Groundbreaking Chase Bank Lawsuit Verdict Could See NY Federal Judge Rule ‘Crypto is Cash’

April 26, 2019 02:08 UTC

By CCN.com: A Manhattan federal judge will have to decide whether crypto is cash in what would be a landmark decision for the budding industry. The ruling would have major implications for what laws and regulations cryptocurrencies are subject to.

Chase Bank — the consumer and commercial banking subsidiary of JP Morgan Chase — says crypto is just like cash because it’s a medium of exchange. The only difference is that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are digital, Chase says.

Meanwhile, a group of customers that are suing Chase over fees it charged on crypto purchases contend that cryptocurrencies are goods — not cash.

Chase slapped surprise fees on crypto purchases

Chase Bank made the “crypto-is-cash” argument in a November 2018 motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it last year.

In April 2018, Chase customers sued the bank as part of a nationwide class action. The plaintiffs accused Chase of charging surprise fees after it abruptly stopped letting customers buy crypto with credit cards and began treating them as cash advances.

To make matters worse, Chase Bank refused to refund the extra fees it had charged after customers complained.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Brady Tucker, says Chase charged him $143.30 in fees and $20.61 in surprise interest charges for five crypto transactions he did between January and February 2018.

After he called to dispute the charges, Chase refused to refund the money.

Plaintiffs: Chase didn’t give advance notice of fees

Brady Tucker says he’s not only victim of Chase Bank’s sneaky fees. In his lawsuit, Tucker says hundreds or even thousands of Chase customers were assessed these same fees — again, without prior notice.

In his federal lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of customers, Tucker claims Chase Bank violated the Truth in Lending Act, which is designed to protect consumers from “unfair credit billing and credit card practices.” The law also says that banks must inform customers of any changes to its terms of service in writing.

Chase is one of several banks, including Citigroup and Bank of America, that banned credit-card purchases of cryptocurrencies in 2018 amid the prolonged bitcoin bear market.

Similar lawsuits over “cash-advance fees” for crypto purchases were filed against Bank of America in California and State Farm Bank in Illinois. The judges in those cases did not rule on the question of whether cryptocurrencies are cash, and did not dismiss the lawsuits.

Bitcoin fans point to these lawsuits over shady bank fees as examples of how hypocritical and dishonest legacy banks are, even as they slam the crypto industry as sleazy and illegitimate.

Wells Fargo caught scamming customers after dissing crypto as shady

A glaring example involves Wells Fargo. In June 2018, Wells Fargo banned its customers from using their credits cards to buy cryptocurrencies, saying crypto was too risky.

Then, six months later — in December 2018 — Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $575 million settlement after admitting that it had systematically scammed its own customers for 15 years.

Wells Fargo admitted that its employees opened more than 3.5 million unauthorized bank and credit card accounts in customers’ names between 2002 and 2017.

The bank then illegally charged its clients for various financial services products they never signed up for, such as life-insurance policies and collateral protection insurance on millions of auto loans.

Wells Fargo hit with $2 billion in fines

Employees claimed they engaged in this widespread fraud because they were afraid to lose their jobs if they didn’t meet Wells Fargo’s aggressive sales goals.

Wells Fargo has racked up more than $2 billion in fines since its fake-accounts scandal was first revealed in 2016.

Many in the crypto community pointed to that banking scandal as yet another example spotlighting the epic failure of centralized financial institutions.

Last modified: April 26, 2019 09:01 UTC

@Samantha_Chang

Samantha Chang is a New York City-based financial editor who writes about crypto and business at . She is a law school grad and an alum of the University of Pennsylvania. You can reach her on Twitter at Samantha Chang or email her at schang121@juno.com.