U.S. Bank reached a confidential settlement with a Twin Cities-area Black man who claimed he was racially profiled and mistreated at the Columbia Heights branch last year.
The settlement was followed by a public letter of apology by the CEO of the bank after a local TV station reported last week about the incident.
"I am deeply sorry for where we failed and accept full responsibility," Andy Cecere, U.S. Bancorp's chief executive officer, wrote in the letter. "Our commitment to racial equity and inclusion, and that of U.S. Bank, is unwavering."
The bank reached the settlement with the customer, Joe Morrow, as KSTP-TV investigated what happened when he tried to cash a $900 paycheck in October 2020.
Morrow was upset when the bank alleged the check was fraudulent. The branch manager called police before reaching out to United Natural Foods, Morrow's employer, to verify the check, according to the news report.
The bank manager told police said the bank had received three fraudulent checks in the previous few weeks that appeared to be from the same employer.
While awaiting confirmation, police placed handcuffs on Morrow at one point after bodycam video showed him suddenly standing up from a chair in the branch manager's office. An officer claimed that Morrow had "flexed" at the manager "in a threatening manner," according to the police report.
In an e-mail, Columbia Heights Police Chief Lenny Austin, said that once the check was verified to be valid, police removed the handcuffs and apologized to Morrow.
"While it was an unfortunate incident, after reviewing the body-worn camera videos from both officers, as well as the report and dispatch notes, the department believes the officers on the scene responded with their best judgment given the information that they had," he said.
Morrow and his attorney, who are now bound by the terms of the settlement, did not respond to requests for comment.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and founder of the Racial Justice Network, said she's glad U.S. Bank apologized for its missteps. She added that bank leaders, including Cecere, reached out to her last week after her organization put out a statement demanding the bank take accountability.
"This was a hardworking Black man who was simply trying to cash a paycheck that he earned," she said. "Instead of being treated with dignity, or in the way a white customer would have been treated, he was dehumanized and racially profiled and stereotyped. That's unacceptable."
In his letter, Cecere added that no customer should face what Morrow experienced and that U.S. Bank will revisit and expand its employee training, which already includes unconscious bias training.
Like many large companies since the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020, U.S. Bank has ramped up efforts to address racial disparities and made financial commitments to businesses and organizations that are led by, or assist, people of color. The Minneapolis-based bank company, the nation's fifth-largest, committed more than $100 million a year to work on closing racial gaps through various initiatives.
Cecere noted that U.S. Bank also recently donated the site of its damaged branch on Lake Street so it can be redeveloped for affordable housing and other purposes.
"We will continue to listen and learn from the community as we expand our efforts to advance the cause of equality for all," Cecere said.