The Knuckleheads of the Day award
Today's winners are Bank of America and The Florida Department of Safety and Motor Vehicles. A lawsuit just filed in Federal court alleges the bank illegally bought from the DMV lists of luxury car owners and then targeted these people with mail touting private bank services.
Both parties should have known better. Congress passed a law in 1999 making it illegal to either buy or sell such lists. However DMV kept on doing this till 2004 when they were threatened with a lawsuit. Our tax dollars at work, they are used for breaking the law now.
For breaking the law and not respecting people's privacy, Bank of America and the Florida DMV are today's Knuckleheads of the day.
Weekend Buffet/Open Trackback- Cafe Oregano and Mudville Gazette
By Jane Musgrave
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Allison Davis never connected the Mercedes in her driveway with the junk mail in her mailbox.
Until she had a chance conversation with West Palm Beach attorney Jim Green.
Green, who specializes in privacy cases, helped connect the invisible dots from the former county prosecutor's car to her mailbox.
The connections led to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Bank of America not just for Davis but on behalf of thousands of county residents who own Mercedes, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, BMWs and other high-end cars.
According to a lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court in Miami, the banking giant illegally purchased from the state the names of 50,000 county residents who own fancy cars. It then targeted the car owners with brochures, touting the benefits of its private banking services, which they claim is "the advisor of choice for the affluent."
Green, who is handling the lawsuit with six other lawyers from Miami to Tallahassee, said the suit isn't about stopping junk mail. It's about privacy.
"Even if people didn't get junk mail, Bank of America has no business buying people's highly personal information without their permission," he said.
He said he doesn't know exactly what the bank did with the information. And, he said, that's the point.
Once the information from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles was in bank officials' hands, they could have used it to solicit business, sold it or done any other number of things that would put the car owners' privacy at risk.
With identity theft reaching epic proportions, people have a right to be concerned, Green said.
That's why Congress in 1999 enacted a law making it illegal for states to sell such information to companies for marketing purposes without the written consent of the car owner.
The penalty is $2,500 per violation, which, for Bank of America, could be $125 million, Green said.
Despite the law, until 2004 Florida continued to sell names, at one cent a pop. It stopped after the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to then-U.S. Attorney John Ashcroft, Gov. Jeb Bush and state lawmakers asking them to direct the state agency to stop, said Green, who often handles cases for the ACLU.