I first heard about Coutts & Co. while I was a banker in the States. I just couldn't imagine a bank where the male employees --- from doormen to directors --- wore frock coats and were clean shaven. Where the payee of each check was carefully printed on customers' monthly statement. Where leather cheque book covers holding oversized white cheques were the norm. Stamped with the Bank's logo in gold.
When I heard about Coutts & Co. I wanted to be their customer.
But what was the point in having an account in Sterling in London when you live in Hawaii? So my desire to have white cheques imprinted with my name (not simply "Craig W. Walsh," but "Craig W. Walsh, Esq.") would need to wait.
It was my good fortune in April 1986 to marry Marjorie. Beautiful, charming, English, and a Lloyds Bank customer. My chance had come to correspond with the gentlemen at Coutts in London. I wrote to Coutts from our home on Maui, and they responded promptly with all the necessary paperwork. Marjorie and I filled the forms out, signed and returned them, and suddenly we were customers of the Queen's own bank.
Sheet 1 of our Coutts bank statements reflects that our account was opened on May 21 1986, less than a month after we were married.
We moved to England in June of that year, and started a financial services business (with money borrowed from a high-interest finance company, but that's another story) in October. By 1992 we'd sold a minority interest in our company to a NYSE-listed corporation, and in 1996 we sold the rest. At that time, our company employeed 515 people in five countries. The wire transfers from the purchaser --- millions of pounds ---went to our friends at Coutts.
Over the years we deposited many millions with Coutts. And, at other times, they lent us substantial sums. They invested our company's pension fund. They invested our own funds. We used their credit cards. Our farm banked with them. We'd flown our account manager to Hawaii to see our business there.
On April 2 2004 we sold a residential property, and the funds were (of course) sent to Coutts. This paid off all of our debt to the Bank, and left our own house and 57 acres of farm free of encumbrances. We'd never missed a payment to Coutts, and dealt with our account manager and his colleagues on a regular basis, usually by e-mail.
Our account manager, Stephen Cannons, telephoned me on April 28 to say that the Bank wanted to close all of our accounts. Stephen explained that we were entitled to 30 days' notice, but the bank would give us until June 1 to move our personal and business banking relationships elsewhere. An overall relationship of almost 18 years.
As I set about making contact with other banks and filling out their forms, I kept thinking about how unfair this was. And I started to recall the story of Bally Sucks.
Andrew Faber signed up for a health club membership at Bally Total Fitness some years ago, and things went wrong. Andrew explains, "In October of 2001 I got a call from some Collection Agency representative who was so rude that I cannot even describe it. He screamed at me and kept insulting me. He said that I should get of my lazy ass and pay them money I owe to Bally Total Fitness." Andrew was sure that a call or two to Bally would resolve everything, but it didn't. In the end he even paid them money he didn't owe, and still they made a derogatory report to the credit reporting agency.
Andrew said, "I felt beaten. [ ... ] I did everything they asked me to do and I still got screwed. Finally it came to me. I will cost this company thousands of times more money than I paid to collection agency. I will let the world know about their business practices. Hence my friends, you are looking at this site."
Bally sued. The Courts said that Andrew's site was "consumer commentary," and dismissed Bally's claims. In their judgment, the Court quoted Justice Brandeis: "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not the enforcement of silence."
Forbes Magazine discusses what they call "corporate complaint sites" in their August 21 2002 issue.
So, in the tradition of
(although I like the Chase Bank: my daughter is actually named after it. Honest.) I decided to create a "consumer commentary" site of my own.
I don't think Coutts is evil, but I think they acted unfairly towards us. They have, along the way, made large mistakes in calculating interest owed by us to them, resulting in a substantial refund. And they've made many other mistakes, including a dozen with the simple closure of our account. Articles about these difficulties are elsewhere on this website.
In the weeks and months ahead, I will be adding to this website. I welcome comments, suggestions, or shared experiences. To e-mail me, please click here. If you like, I'd be glad to add similar stores to this website. In the interest of "more speech, not enforced silence."
I have carefully avoided using the Coutts logo anywhere on this site, and (for the avoidance of doubt) wish to make it clear that this site is not owned by, nor endorsed by, Coutts & Co. If you're looking for their website, please click here.
Before you go to their site, you may wish to read some of the articles here. And see why I personally feel that CouttsSucks.
Please also visit our store, where you can buy our site logo on t-shirts and mugs --- with new products being added all the time. Profits from the store are meager, and are used to defray the cost of running this site. To go to our store, please click here.
|Our exclusive site logo mug|