by Justice William W. Bedsworth
Catchy title, eh?
I figure by now many regular readers of this publication have stopped reading my stuff because (a) it’s time that could be more productively spent watching chrome rust, (b) it damages their self esteem when their friends catch them, and (c) they have run out of synonyms for “drivel” so it’s hard to express their disdain for me adequately.
But I know the juxtaposition of bad grammar and the promise of titillation is hard to resist. It got me an appointment to the Court of Appeal.(1) And it’s gotten you three paragraphs into this column, despite your myriad oaths to forswear me forever.
Next month, I’ll probably have to use another word like “titillation,” snagging those subscribers who think it means something different than it does. Or maybe I can get the editor to change my byline to Rich Fibel or Ray Ikala or something else deceptively close to the name of someone from whom you would expect valuable content.
But that’s tomorrow. In the immortal words of the great legal scholar Katie Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler(2), “Tomorrow, I’ll think of some way . . . after all, tomorrow is another day.”
For this month, I’ve already got the requisite number of hits.(3) Thank you. Feel free to move on to the photo pages now.
For the benefit of those of you still reading,(4) there actually is a connection between me and a porn star. I don’t know what it is, but J. P. Morgan Chase does.
Coupla months ago, Chase Bank opened a branch in my town. It’s twenty yards from where I do my marketing, much more convenient than my present bank, so I decided to change banks. I opened a checking account and three savings accounts at Chase.(5)
For five weeks, I made deposits into the Chase checking account—no withdrawals from any—and then went in to complain that I hadn’t received the checks I’d ordered yet. They were nonplussed.
“But that account’s closed,” the teller told me.(6)
“Can’t be,” I remonstrated,(7) “It was just opened.”
“I’m sorry, sir. It’s coming up as a closed account. Are you sure that’s the account you just opened?”
“No, I’ve spent my entire adult life in the public sector and have paid for two divorces and three college educations, so I have a hard time keeping my Swiss and Cayman Islands accounts separate from all my day-to-day walking-around money accounts. Help me out, here; is this the branch where I keep my gold bullion?”
I didn’t actually say that, but it crossed my mind.
What I actually said was, “Can I speak to the branch manager?”
The branch manager spoke to me. While she was speaking to me she also spoke to roughly a half-dozen district, regional, national, international, intergalactic, and transcosmic managers.(8) The information gathered through all this telephonic and internetic(9) conferencing and palavering enabled her to do something I wouldn’t have thought possible. Read these words carefully because you will be as stunned by them as I was: he was able to be even less enlightening than the teller.
The teller was at least able to tell me the account was closed. That shed a little light on the “Why haven’t I gotten my checks?” question. The branch manager was able to tell me only that it had been closed because it had been determined that I “might be a risk to the bank.” That added not a single lumen to the situation. Doesn’t get much more cryptic and less informative than “a risk to the bank.”
“A risk to the bank.”
I’m sorry. You seem to have me confused with Ivan Boesky. Or Charles Keating. Or Michael Milken. Or Jesse James.
I am none of those people. I am an unarmed intermediate appellate court judge with no criminal record and no appearances on any no-fly list. Not only have I never damaged a bank, I have never so much as raised my voice—even on this occasion—to a bank employee.
I have an unblemished banking record. I have had an account somewhere since my fourth grade class opened passbook savings accounts at Great Western Savings in 1956. I deposited my first paycheck, $1.25 I earned working in the school cafeteria, in 1959. I paid my student loans. I’ve bought and sold three houses, and re-financed several times—always without incident.
And now, after fifty-seven years of completely vanilla banking, I have J. P. Morgan Chase—“a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average [that] serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional, and government clients under its J. P. Morgan and Chase brands”(10)—quaking in their boots?!
I, with my $3200 in checking and savings accounts,(11) am a “risk” to a company that boasts on its website of providing 1.2 trillion dollars in credit last year. I, a guy who writes six checks a month, am a threat to a company that could buy Bolivia just by taking up a collection of pocket change at its next board of directors meeting.
Obviously, the Chase people have intuited I am capable of much more sophisticated financial machinations than I have thus far attempted. Kudos to them for recognizing me as the edgy, unpredictable, vaguely dangerous combination of Steve McQueen, Willie Sutton, and William S. Buckley that has always been my own self-image.
But where the hell were they when I was trying to sell that image in singles bars and could have used a wingman to vouch for it? With a little help, I could have pulled off that whole, “When he walks into a room, bankers tremble,” thing. I know I could have.
Now, since Chase refuses—honest, they won’t tell me—to explain what kind of a risk I am, or how they figured out I was just lying in wait, preparing to pounce, I have to speculate about what gave me away. I’m left to guess what it was about me that put them wise to my nefarious ways—ways I had successfully hidden from a dozen other banking institutions.
I was completely baffled until I learned that Chanel Preston had suffered a similar experience. According to CNBC.com, “Preston recently opened a business account with City National Bank in Los Angeles. When she went to deposit checks into the account days later, however, she was told it had been shut down due to ‘compliance issues.’”
Wow, I thought. That’s just what happened to me. Right down to the spectacularly unilluminating explanation. This is just what I needed: a precedent right on point.
So I read on to find out why Chanel Preston had been thrown out of City National as unceremoniously as I was thrown out of Chase. Well, it turns out Ms. Preston was rejected because of her occupation. She is a porn star.(12)
That explanation makes as much sense as any. It wasn’t personal. Chase just didn’t want to be associated with an appellate court justice any more than City National wanted to be associated with a porn star. So all of you who think no one ever listens to your gripes about judges can take solace in the fact J. P. Morgan Chase does.
But I feel obliged to point out to those of you who feel this comeuppance is noteworthy only in its tardiness, that Chase hasn’t credited all your complaints. They seem to agree with you that I’m untrustworthy, treacherous, and . . . well, risky. But, like those of you who can’t stop reading this column, they can’t bring themselves to give up on me entirely.
They have no problem with me carrying a Chase Bank credit card I’ve had for years. With a $30,000 limit. That doesn’t strike them as risky.
Honest. I don’t make this drivel up.
(1) Pete Wilson turned out to be a lot wilder and crazier than people thought.
(2) There’s the MCLE portion of today’s column: Scarlett O’Hara’s full name.
(3) For reasons obvious to recidivist readers, I’ve adopted the Internet measure of success: Doesn’t matter how long you read, as long as you go to the site.
(4) Hi, Mom. Hi, Kelly.
(5) Why three? This is how I save money: earmarked accounts. So I needed a “Cait’s Wedding” account, a “Golf in Ireland account,” and a “Defense of Class Action by Regular Readers of the Column” account.
(6) See, that’s why they call them “tellers.” Because they tell you stuff. More MCLE.
(7) All the people who quit reading three paragraphs ago will be sorry when they find out I used “remonstrated” in a sentence.
(8) Hey, if the physicists can get away with this eleven-dimension claptrap, I can get away with “transcosmic.”
(9) Whaddya mean that’s not a real word? See footnote 8, supra.
(10) This is their own description. They are not given to hiding their light under a bushel basket.
(11) Fortunately, I hadn’t closed my old banking accounts, so $3200 was all I had asked Chase to hold for me. They probably stuck it in a drawer somewhere.
(12) Based on the “What’s Your Porn Name” game, Ms. Preston’s first pet must have been named Chanel and the street she lived on as a child must have been Preston Street. My porn name is Trouble Patronella, which I like almost enough to consider a career as a porn star.
William W. Bedsworth is an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.