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Coleman v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

August 4, 2017

BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., ET AL., Defendants.


          A. JOE FISH Senior United States District Judge.

         Before the court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (docket entry 52) and the motion of the plaintiff to strike the defendants' summary judgment evidence (docket entry 56). For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion is granted and the plaintiff's motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         The plaintiff, Yvette Coleman (“Coleman”), an African American woman, was employed as an anti-money laundering representative for the defendant, Bank of America, N.A. (“the Bank”), since January 2011. Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment (“Supporting Memorandum”) at 4 (docket entry 53); Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (“Second Amended Complaint”) ¶¶ 8, 16 (docket entry 40). Coleman's suit arises from her termination from the Bank on April 20, 2016. According to the Bank, Coleman was terminated due to activity on her personal, joint checking account she held with her mother at the Bank. Supporting Memorandum at 4, 6. The Bank trains its tellers to report transactions or actions by customers that might violate banking laws and regulations. Id. at 4. The Bank's employee handbook states “[y]ou must not take any action, either personally or on behalf of the company, that will violate any law or regulation affecting our business.” Id. Likewise, the Bank's code of conduct states “[w]e must not take any action, either personally or on behalf of Bank of America, which violates any law, rule, regulations or internal Company policies or procedures.” Id.

         The Bank must file a currency transaction report (“CTR”) for “each deposit, withdrawal, exchange of currency, or other payment or transfer, by, through, or to such financial institution which involves a transaction in currency of more than $10, 000.” 31 C.F.R. § 1010.311. It is illegal to structure or attempt to structure any transaction to evade this requirement. 31 U.S.C. § 5324(a)(3); 31 C.F.R. § 1010.314(c). A person structures a transaction if:

[T]hat person, acting alone, or in conjunction with, or on behalf of, other persons, conducts or attempts to conduct one or more transactions in currency, in any amount, at one or more financial institutions, on one or more days, in any manner, for the purpose of evading the reporting requirements under § 1010.311. . . .

31 C.F.R. § 1010.100(xx).

         “In any manner” includes, but is not limited to, “the breaking down of a single sum of currency exceeding $10, 000 into smaller sums, including sums at or below $10, 000, or the conduct of a transaction, or series of currency transactions at or below $10, 000.” Id. The transaction or transactions need not exceed the $10, 000 threshold at any single financial institution on any single day to constitute structuring. Id.

         The Bank asserts that on February 10, 2016, a teller at one of the Bank's Dallas area branches reported through its transaction reporting management system (“TRMS”) a transaction by Coleman, who was there as a customer. Supporting Memorandum at 4. The teller reported that Coleman withdrew $9, 500 cash, wanted to move money from her account at the Bank to an account at another bank, and wanted to avoid filling out the paperwork. Id. The teller reported that after she told Coleman she could fill out a CTR if she needed to take out more, Coleman said she would just take some out little by little. Id. Then, on February 18, 2016, a teller at another Dallas area branch reported through TRMS that Coleman wanted to withdraw $9, 500 cash after already cashing a check for over $600. Id. at 5. After she told Coleman she had to file a CTR, she decided to withdraw $9, 000 to avoid the CTR. Id. These TRMS reports were given to Cheri Lollman (“Lollman”), a senior investigator at the Bank. Id. While reviewing Coleman's transaction history, Lollman found additional transactions just below the CTR threshold: on March 7, 2016, Coleman withdrew $8, 000 cash; on March 17, 2016, Coleman wrote a check to herself for $9, 500; and on April 12, 2016, Coleman withdrew $9, 000 cash. Id.

         The Bank contends that on April 18, 2016, Lollman spoke with Jeremy Kaster (“Kaster”), Coleman's third-level manager, and said she needed to talk with Coleman about her account activity. Id. Later that day, Lollman spoke with Coleman, and Coleman confirmed that she completed the Bank's financial crimes compliance training. Id. She also confirmed that she changed a withdrawal amount after being told a CTR would have to be completed because she did not want to do the paperwork. Id. at 5-6. Coleman asked why she was being questioned, and Lollman explained that her activity showed a pattern of structuring. Id. at 6.

         Coleman asserts that she did not engage in structuring because she used the money for lawful reasons, and because she did not attempt to conceal the money's origin or the nature of the transactions. Second Amended Complaint ¶ 9. Coleman explained to Lollman that the money was the proceeds of an insurance check payable to her mother for personal items stolen from her mother's house, that she was moving the money from the joint account to her own account at another bank, and that she then used the money to pay contractors and buy supplies. Supporting Memorandum at 6. Lollman concluded, however, that Coleman's personal banking activity was consistent with structuring. Id.

         On April 20, 2016, Lollman spoke with Vince Dubman (“Dubman”), an employee relations consultant, and explained that Coleman's banking activity was consistent with structuring. Id. Dubman decided that Coleman's employment should be terminated because violating the law is against the Bank's employee handbook and code of conduct. Id. Dubman and Lollman then called Tommy Brock (“Brock”), Coleman's second-level manager, and explained that Coleman's banking activity was consistent with structuring and recommended that Coleman be terminated. Id. at 6-7. Both Brock and Kaster supported and accepted the recommendation. Id. at 7. On April 20, 2016, Kaster and Brock informed Coleman that her employment was terminated effective immediately. Id.

         Coleman contends that the Bank's reason for terminating her was a pretext for racial discrimination. Second Amended Complaint ¶ 9. Coleman asserts that a few days before her termination, Kevin Bennett (“Bennett”), a white male co-worker, sent an e-mail complaint about Coleman and requested that she be terminated. Id. ¶ 11. Coleman alleges that “the complaint surrounded an incident where she reproached Bennett for being reckless and hitting her with a door.” Id. Coleman implies that the complaint played a role in her termination.

         B. Procedural Background

         Coleman brought her original complaint against Bank of America, Corporation on May 26, 2016. See Plaintiff's Original Complaint (docket entry 1). Coleman alleged one count of discriminatory termination on the basis of race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”). Id. at 3. On July 20, 2016, Coleman amended her complaint to substitute the proper defendant, Bank of America, N.A. See Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (docket entry 15). On March 29, 2017, Coleman amended her complaint again to add a retaliation claim against the Bank, to add two individual defendants, Kaster and Brock, and to add a defamation claim against Kaster and Brock. See Second Amended Complaint. Her claims now include: racial discrimination under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981”); retaliation under Title VII, Section 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 12101 (“FMLA”); and defamation against Kaster and Brock. Id.

         The defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, their supporting memorandum, and supporting appendix on May 26, 2017. See Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (docket entry 52); Supporting Memorandum; Defendants' Appendix in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment (“Appendix in Support”) (docket entry 54). On June 16, 2017, the plaintiff filed a motion to strike the defendants' summary judgment evidence. Motion to Strike Defendants' Summary Judgment Evidence (“Plaintiff's Motion to Strike”) (docket entry 56). On July 7, 2017, the defendants filed a timely reply in ...

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