Like more than 7 million other Americans (7,155,422 to be exact), Alisa Beattie of Alpharetta, Ga., received a check for $18.04 from the Currency Conversion Fee class action lawsuit settlement I wrote about last month. Unlike those who thought the slightly odd-looking mailer was junk mail or a scam and tossed it, she deposited the check.
Ten days later, she received a letter from her bank telling her the check had bounced and she had been charged a $5 fee as a result. The letter she received from her bank said:
The following check, cashed or deposited on the above account, has been returned unpaid. The account has been charged for the check listed and a fee has been assessed.
Reason: Refer to Maker
What does “refer to maker” mean and why did the check bounce? The answer to both questions appears to be “Who knows?”
“Refer to maker is a chicken’s way out of returning a check because it doesn’t tell you anything,” says John Burnett, associate editor of BankersOnline.com. Burnett says he has seen ‘refer to maker’ used when banks can’t figure out a legitimate reason to return a check. “It may be the money had not been moved into this fund in time to pay that particular check,” he speculates. “It could be that the endorsement looked irregular, though very few endorsements are checked. ”
Burnett says Beattie should ask her bank to refund the fee, though he added that the bank isn’t legally obligated to do so.
Bonny E. Sweeney, an attorney with Robbins, Geller, Rudman & Dowd LLP, one of the two firms that represented the plaintiffs in this case, told me the funds are indeed there to pay all the claims, and was mystified by the bounced check. David A. Langer, a senior associate with Berger & Montague, P.C., the other firm that represented the plaintiffs, also confirmed that there is plenty of money available to honor these checks, but warned that with over ten million checks going out in this settlement, “hiccups” are bound to happen. Langer directed Beattie to the CCFSettlement.com website, where she was instructed to fill out a form describing the problem.
Beattie isn’t happy with the additional work. She’s worried that even if she does get another check, she could face the same problem again, along with another fee. “I am the one who has to request the check again and maybe they will be able to get the money back to me,” she says. “It kind of makes me feel like I’m the one to blame. They should make sure it’s done right.”
Sweeney told me the largest check issued in the settlement was for $2,528,665.76. Hopefully that one won’t bounce.
Image: CarbonNYC, via Flickr.com