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'The bank and I are no longer friends'

Longtime bank customer asked to leave

After 81 years as a loyal customer of Oxford Bank, Shirley Acheson was asked by the management to end her relationship with the financial institution. Photo by CJC. (click for larger version)
August 11, 2010 - Much like an old friend of the family, Oxford Bank has always been a big part of Shirley Acheson's life.

In May 1929, the month after she was born, her parents established a savings account for her there.

Her grandfather, W.O. Smith, who founded Oxford's first gravel mining business, served on the bank's board of directors in the 1920s and 1930s.

When Acheson and her late husband, Marvin, wanted to purchase a farm in Addison Township in the late 1940s, it was Oxford Bank that loaned them the money.

As owner of Ridgelawn Memorial Cemetery on W. Burdick St., Acheson entrusted the bank with all of her business accounts and CDs. The cemetery's been banking with Oxford since her grandfather established it in 1927.

Whatever the need, whatever the service, Oxford Bank's always been there for Acheson and her family.

That's why she was so shocked and saddened when a member of the bank's management told her during a July 28 meeting to pay her two loans in full and close all of her accounts, both personal and business.

"He said you cost us $64,000 and we want you to leave the bank," Acheson said. "We want you out of the bank is what he said. He said it twice."

This was confirmed by Acheson's daughter-in-law, Loretta, who helps run the cemetery and was in attendance at the July 28 meeting.

"He said we would prefer you not bank with us," Loretta said. "Those were his exact words. He said that two or three times."

Loretta described this particular manager as "totally rude."

"He was just adamant. That was it – end of conversation," she said.

Shirley described him as "arrogant."

"He wasn't warm or cordial," she said. "He be treated any different than John Doe. But everybody should be treated courteously."

For Acheson, being told to leave the only bank she's ever worked with was heartbreaking.

"It makes me sad. It's like losing a friend or a relative," she said. "It brings tears to my eyes because it's been a long time. I don't know any other banks."

"Mom was in tears when we left there," Loretta said.

The $64,000 loss the bank official cited as a reason for wanting to terminate Acheson's longtime relationship with the financial institution wasn't even related to the cemetery.

Back in 2007, Acheson signed over the deed to her Waterstone home to the bank because she and Marvin couldn't afford the balloon payments on their three-year adjustable rate mortgage.

She could no longer afford the payment for two reasons – one, it went "sky high" and two, she no longer had the income coming in from the sale of her cemetery.

Acheson had sold Ridgelawn and moved to Waterstone. But when the new owner defaulted on his payments to her, she had to take the cemetery back.

At the time, the bank representative she was dealing with told Acheson the best option was to simply deed the Waterstone house over to the bank rather than refinance the loan or risk foreclosure.

"(The bank representative) said if you were my parents this is what I'd do," Acheson said.

Now, she's upset because something the bank advised her to do is being held against her and it has nothing to do with the cemetery's line of credit, which is what the July 28 meeting was supposed to be about.

"It's a separate issue," Acheson said. "It's separate from Ridgelawn. I don't think they should mix the two."

Acheson was asked to meet face-to-face with bank officials because she did not wish to supply the bank with the significant amount of financial information the institution requested her to disclose in order to extend the cemetery's line of credit for another year.

In previous years, all that was required to extend the credit line were copies of Acheson's and the cemetery's tax records.

Now, the bank wanted to know things like what type of insurance policies she had and the amount of coverage for each; what stocks, bonds and other securities she possessed; did she have a will or trust; a list of all the real estate she owns and other mortgages; a detailed list of all her income and expenses in a year; and a list of all loans and leases.

"It was unbelievable what they asked for," Acheson said. "I wasn't going to give them all that information."

Not only did she view it as an invasion of her privacy, she also couldn't understand why all that information was necessary when she had been banking with Oxford for 81 years.

"She never had to do it before and there's never been a problem with this loan," Loretta said.

Both Acheson and her daughter-in-law confirmed that payments on the loan stemming from the cemetery's line of credit have never been late.

"Not that I'm aware of," Acheson said.

"When mom was paying it during the summer, she paid extra," Loretta noted.

When asked why Acheson had to supply all of this information, Loretta replied, "All he said was this is the way we do things now. These are our regulations."

Due to privacy laws, Oxford Bank could not comment on any of the specifics involving Acheson and Ridgelawn Cemetery.

However, the financial institution did release the following statement – "The customer has refused to provide Oxford Bank with fundamental bank/borrower financial information that is required by the bank's state and federal banking regulators."

When asked if the amount and type of information requested of Acheson was a result of the consent agreement with state and federal regulators that the bank's been operating under since May 2008, Bank Spokesman Tony Lasher indicated it's nothing new.

"It's always been a requirement," Lasher said. "This information that we're asking for – that's different than what she's provided before – has always been a requirement."

So, if it's always been a requirement, why wasn't all that information requested of Acheson in the past?

Lasher indicated he couldn't answer beyond the bank's official statement.

As a result of this incident, Acheson paid her personal and cemetery loans in full.

She's already moved her personal and cemetery accounts to Chase Bank and removed the contents of her safety deposit box.

The CDs are still at Oxford Bank.

Acheson indicated Oxford Bank is no longer the hometown bank it once was.

"They've gotten rid of the people I knew in there, the people that helped me for all these years," she said. "I just have to get over the fact that the bank and I are no longer friends."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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