What the National Iranian American Council wrote TCF Bank


Here’s a copy of the letter that Jamal Abdi, the council’s policy director, told me was sent to TCF yesterday.

It’s in response to TCF’s notifications last month that it would close the accounts of a number of Iranian students at the University of Minnesota.

(My story on that is here.)

Students I spoke with say at least 20 have received the form letter, which I’ll post soon.

The council’s website also states that the matter seems part of a larger issue:

As U.S. and E.U. sanctions on Iran have ratcheted up over the past three years, they have had a significant chilling effect on even perfectly legal transactions. For instance, many banks have decided it is not worth the risk to facilitate payments for the sale of medical goods or food to Iran or to send family remittances, even though these items are technically exempt from sanctions. Testing services required for Iranian students to study abroad, such as Educational Testing Service’s TOEFL test, have been intermittently suspended and plagued by problems in facilitating payments. And many Iranian students are increasingly reporting hardship in paying their tuitions at U.S. schools because sanctions have closed off channels for legally receiving money from family in Iran.

… Last year, a number of Iranians and Iranian Americans reported that Apple Store employees were refusing to sell items to them and profiling on the basis of their language or national origin. Isolated cases of banks refusing to open accounts for Iranians have been reported over the past year as well.

And it says it has doubts about TCF’s explanation that the letters were the result of computer monitoring of accounts:

… The representatives claimed that the closures were triggered by “irregularities” in transactions that had been detected by the bank’s monitoring software. However, the fact that all of the students received the notices on the same date, and some had never engaged in international transactions, raised doubts about the bank’s explanation. At least one of the impacted students even said their account had been completely inactive for over a year.