When a Bank Rescinds a Job Offer Because It Canceled Your Credit Cards

Last year, my colleague Tara Siegel Bernard and I wrote a series of articles about banks that shut down the checking accounts of scores of everyday citizens and small businesses. There was often no clear reason, explanation or recourse.

JPMorgan Chase seemed to have done a lot of this in recent years. Customers would get a call from the bank, or their A.T.M. cards would stop working and then their credit cards would freeze as well.

One question that lingered was what the long-term ramifications would be for those whose accounts were closed. Thankfully, people who had experienced this usually weren’t blacklisted from opening accounts at other banks, even if their former bank told them that it would never take them back.

But what if you tried to work at a bank that had kicked you out?

And so we come to the strange case of Mansoor Shams, a Marine veteran who lives in Baltimore and used to run a business exporting consumer electronics, including Apple products.

As part of this business, Mr. Shams used a Chase business credit card that earned United Airlines frequent-flier miles. He believes that he put over $1 million on it, including for overseas travel to places where he sold his inventory, like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In 2014, Chase canceled that card, even though Mr. Shams paid his bills on time, he said. His recollection was that the bank didn’t say much beyond boilerplate language about periodic reviews of customer accounts. It was annoying, but he switched cards and moved on.

Last year, Mr. Shams got a job offer for a marketing job at the bank. He was supposed to make a low-six-figure salary once he passed background checks. But he flunked, and the 2014 card cancellation was the reason he was given.

So much is shambolic about this affair that it’s hard to know where to start. But let’s begin here: In 2022, a year before Chase revoked the offer for the marketing job, the bank had no problem hiring Mr. Shams for a role in wealth management where he would help run other people’s money.

He left that role several months later after he did not pass two licensing exams. That, however, did not pose an obstacle to getting the marketing job offer a year later. But then, a background check that turned up the card cancellation disqualified him.

Mr. Shams was mystified — and furious. “I hadn’t killed anyone in the previous months, so what the heck?” he said. No one he encountered during the hiring process would say much more, either. He even tried Jamie Dimon, the chief executive.

After the job offer was revoked, Mr. Shams sought explanation for the 2014 cancellation from the bank’s credit card unit and received a letter, riddled with grammatical errors, that was a copy of the letter the bank had sent him in 2014. It included the following: “Closing account isn’t step Chase takes lightly. We have obligation to periodically review our customer relationships and assess risk.”

So what happened here? In addition to the business account, Chase closed one of Mr. Shams’s personal credit cards around the same time.

“We closed the credit-card accounts in 2014 because purchases on them were inconsistent with what Mr. Shams told us about his business,” said Jerry Dubrowski, a Chase spokesman.

And what had Mr. Shams told the bank? The bank wouldn’t say — Mr. Dubrowski said federal laws relating to bank security prevented Chase from releasing this information.

Mr. Shams said that he had told the bank the truth about his business, and that the nature of it hadn’t changed after he started using the card. Moreover, the bank never got in touch to express its concerns.

In the meantime, the bank says it failed to properly vet Mr. Shams in 2022 when he worked briefly in wealth management. Had it done so, according to the bank, he would not have been hired then, either.

And did a computer generate that letter? Mr. Dubrowski said a person had written it.

Banks are under no obligation to hire anyone, nor must they explain themselves when they don’t hire someone or rescind an offer. No one is entitled to have a bank account, and financial institutions extend credit at their discretion.

Moreover, shareholders and regulators expect banks to be conservative in their risk management — both in whom they do business with and whom they employ. Something about Mr. Shams’s spending made Chase wary, even though it has not and is not accusing him of doing anything illegal.

Few people want to live in a world, however, where we are all at the whim of financial services companies and their algorithms. While humans also played a role here, the bank’s comment still leaves Mr. Shams more frustrated than he was before.

“They put a red dot on the rest of my life,” he said. “If it was a risk issue, close the account and don’t put any flags on my name. But if I’m not a criminal, why put a flag on my name in their system that affects my career 10 years later?”

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