Bank’s $50,000 error caused customer no financial loss

Freeing up capital,
Jimmy and his former wife signed a relationship property agreement stating they would each be responsible equally for any shortfall from the sale of one of their properties. As a result of a bank error during settlement of the property, the entire shortfall of $100,000 was debited to his former wife’s account, rather than being split between them. In effect, he received a windfall of $50,000. He asked the bank and lawyers about the division of the shortfall and was told there was no error and the matter was fully and finally settled. Jimmy said he proceeded to buy a house using the extra $50,000 – a house he could not have afforded otherwise. He said he tried without success to contact his former wife with a view to repaying her. Eventually she took legal action against him, and a court ruled he had to repay the $50,000, plus costs of $6,000. Jimmy wanted the bank to reimburse the $50,000, or alternatively to pay him $8,000 for the legal fees he had incurred, plus interest on a $50,000 loan. The bank would not agree to either option and he came to us.
February 2022

Our investigation

We discovered that Jimmy had bought his own house before settlement of the property he and his former wife had owned. We found nothing to suggest he had relied on the extra $50,000 or that he had suffered any financial loss. The fact his former wife had been forced to take legal action against him confirmed our view that he had not taken reasonable steps to minimise the consequences of the bank error. We could find no evidence he had tried to repay his ex-wife, such as by applying for extra lending to cover his liability to her. The bank offered him $5,000 which appeared to more than cover his legal costs, and we suggested he take it.


Jimmy accepted the offer.

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