December 10, 2001
A federal judge in Baltimore has refused to dismiss an $81 million class-action lawsuit accusing Bank of America Corp. of illegally obtaining and distributing thousands of confidential consumer credit reports (earlier story).

U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis rejected the bank's motion to throw out the suit, opening the way for a trial, which may begin as early as next summer.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., and claims the bank used the confidential reports "without a permissible purpose" under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. A Bank of America spokesman said the suit had no merit and called it "an attempt to get money out of us."

Attorney Robert Sweetland III of Arlington, Va., said the bank sold the data to third-party companies for "black market" purposes. Sweetland said 27 of his clients were among 3,000 to 5,000 consumers whose credit reports were wrongfully made available to third parties. Some of his clients did not even have a banking relationships with BofA, he said.

The suit claims the plaintiffs suffered damages because of the dissemination of their personal financial information. They also claim an invasion of privacy and impairment of their ability to obtain credit.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Bank of America Corp. is the nation's third-largest bank.