US Bank

Andy Cecere, US Bank Chairman, President and CEO last week said his company failed in its mission to provide a welcoming, inclusive and positive experience in its treatment last year of Joe Morrow, a Black customer and account holder who attempted to cash his paycheck at US Bank’s Columbia Heights branch.

The story came to light through an investigative report by KSTP journalist, Eric Rasmussen that aired December 7. The television news report revealed police bodycam footage showing Morrow handcuffed and detained by Columbia Heights police officers, who the branch manager called because he suspected the paycheck was fraudulent.

When the story aired, many Black viewers said they drew a direct line between this incident, and what happened when another business called cops because they felt a customer was passing a fraudulent $20 bill: the murder of George Floyd in South Minneapolis.

“That’s how easy these situations can escalate and how dangerous they have the potential of becoming,” said former Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner, Tyrone Terrill, who now leads the St. Paul African Ameican Leadership Council.

For Joe Morrow, 23, said  reporter Rasmussen, “Despite having an account with the bank and showing his ID, that simple transaction led to a call to police, threats of arrest and Morrow being placed in handcuffs.”

“I am deeply sorry for where we failed and accept full responsibility. Our commitment to racial equity and inclusion, and that of U.S. Bank, is unwavering,” said Cecere. 

He said “What Mr. Morrow experienced is not the experience any customer should have. All of our employees, including executive management, are required to complete two levels of unconscious bias training, in addition to other training to prevent bias and negative customer experiences. Sometimes, unfortunately, we don’t live up to our goals.”  

Cecere’s comments on race and bias followed initial statements by a bank spokesperson, Lee Henderson, in an email to 5 INVESTIGATES in October saying race was not a factor in the incident.  Henderson said "After a thorough internal investigation, there is nothing to indicate that the customer's race or ethnicity played a factor in the service he received at this branch," Rasmussen reported.

Morrow, however, said the issue was certainly about race. He said he was humiliated, being paraded through the bank in front of other customers, being treated like a criminal.

In his letter of apology, Cecere said, “We are listening to the community we live and work in and learning from them. In the case of Mr. Morrow, we fell short and I apologize on behalf of the bank. We will continue to listen and learn from the community as we expand our efforts to advance the cause of equality for all.” 

"There's no question in my mind, had he been white, this would have never happened," Terrill said. "There are many things that happen in a store, in a bank, in a restaurant, in a hotel – you name it – that Black people get treated differently."

US Bank has not said whether the branch manager would be fired or disciplined as a result of the incident.

Rasmussen reported a settlement was reached between the Bank and Morrow.

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