(NEW YORK) — Bank of America is once again in the hot seat, this time for allegedly withdrawing money from child entertainers’ bank accounts, according to a recent class-action lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Bank of America charged child actors’ Coogan Accounts (aka Blocked Trust Accounts or Trust Accounts) monthly service fees, which is illegal.
The Coogan Law, named after child star Jackie Coogan, who sued his mother as an adult after learning she had spent millions of dollars he made as a child star, requires an employer to set aside 15 percent of a child actors’ gross earnings in trust and place it in an account that’s only accessible when the minor is emancipated from his parents or turns 18.
“The law prevents any withdrawals from a Coogan Account until the child becomes 18 or emancipated,” David Markun, a lawyer with Markun Zusman & Compton, who is representing the plaintiffs, told ABC News. “But Bank of America took out monthly service charges. We believe service charges are a withdrawal.”
Markun and attorney Daria Carlson, who is also working on the case, estimate that as many as 15,000 child actors could be affected by Bank of America’s actions over the last four years.
“In some instances, the funds were completely depleted,” said Markun. “So, somebody might have had money in an account and over the years Bank of America took out the money and by the time the person became 18 they actually owed the bank money.”
Plaintiffs include Jasmine Phillips aka Jasmine Gonzales, as trustee for Alex Gonzales, and Anesha Coleman as trustee for Jadon Monroe.
Although the class seeks compensatory damages for unfair business practices as well as an injunction, Markun said he would rather see the bank “do the right thing and reimburse these children rather than go through legal shenanigans. We hope that they really look at the law and what they did and do the right thing.”
A spokesperson for Bank of America told ABC News that the company was reviewing the case and could not comment.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Kathryn Vasel, CNN
Aaron Smith and Evan Perez, CNM