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Public Statements

Electronic Fund Transfer Act Amendment

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, D.C.


Mr. BACHUS. Mr. Speaker, I came here to compliment the two gentlemen who have spoken on this bill, who are the cosponsors of a bipartisan bill.

When I first heard about this legislation, I thought, like most legislation this year, it won't go anywhere. I thought it may pass the House, but it may not pass the Senate. I understand that with this particular legislation, that our Senate colleagues are waiting for it and they're ready to act upon it.

Mr. Scott brought up, I think, a salient point when he said that we're having many banks and credit unions who are struggling, because when people don't have jobs, they can't pay back their loans. Our banks and credit unions are trying to cope with the added expense of more regulation. Particularly at a time like that, but at any time, for people to take advantage of a statute that is intended to protect the American people is really audacity and greed in its purest sense.

I'm an attorney, and I can tell you that 999 out of 1,000 attorneys or former attorneys would absolutely be enraged to find that very few of their colleagues are taking advantage of Regulation E and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to sue these institutions on lawsuits that are totally against the public interest, and particularly are against the interests of those living in low-income areas and high-crime areas. The people in those areas are coping with so much that to add to that, having an ATM machine removed from that location or from a low-income area, just adds another expense for people who have very little means of financing their life today. That's what's happening.

Either the vandals themselves are going and vandalizing the sticker that we've all seen--we've all used an ATM. We've all seen the sticker there. We probably didn't notice the sticker there because what really caught our attention is when we get on the screen and we see that same notice, but that notice actually on the screen requires us to affirmatively say ``yes,'' we will agree to it. So people today probably don't even notice that sticker. The few people who noticed that sticker and took advantage of it were people that were up to no good, people that were willing to bring what some of us would call a ``frivolous lawsuit.''

These lawsuits can ask for a half million dollars worth of damages. And because it is actually a statutory failure to have it, these lawsuits sometimes result in a $100,000 or $200,000 judgment. They're also resulting in these ATMs not being located in areas that are subject to vandalism. Of course, almost any area could be subject to it, but we've penalized those Americans who are least able to afford to travel a greater distance for the convenience of an AMT machine.

As Mr. Luetkemeyer and Mr. Scott said, people come up; they scrape it off. Some of these appear to be well-organized efforts by the very people that bring the lawsuit to go out and do these in an organized manner among hundreds of machines. They then come in and file a class action.

Mr. Luetkemeyer, at one time, was a banker in a small Missouri community. And in most cases, particularly a small credit union or a community bank or a local bank, they can't afford to battle these for $50,000 or $100,000--it actually may be a big law firm bringing these lawsuits--so they settle them for $50,000. This will put an end to that.

Let me tell you, no one on the Financial Services Committee expressed any doubt about this legislation. I don't think anyone would, other than those people who are complicit in vandalizing these machines and making money on what we sometimes called ``unintended consequences.'' I tell you, it certainly was unintended. If we had, in our imagination, sat down for days and said what is the worst thing that could happen by requiring us to put a sticker on as well as electronic notice, we would have never come up with this. We would have never come up with the ingenuity of some people to take advantage of the law. But that's what's happened here.

Today, I think, unanimously, hopefully, we're going to shut the door on this practice and send this bill over to the Senate, particularly for areas where there is high vandalism in our rural communities. We're going to set a wrong right.

Let me say that this is a model for how this Congress ought to operate, of coming together, having a consensus, coming up with good, commonsense legislation that benefits the public and reduces unnecessary costs and puts what I consider and I think is criminal behavior out of business. We're going to put some criminals out of business with this legislation.

Mr. Luetkemeyer, Mr. Scott, and all Members who are cosponsoring this bill, I commend each and every one of you.

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