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Clair v. Citizens Financial Group

November 12, 2008

DONALD F. ST. CLAIR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITIZENS FINANCIAL GROUP, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Donald St. Clair, appearing pro se, has brought before the Court a myriad of claims all arising out of penalty fees he incurred for over-drawing on his Citizens Bank account.*fn1

Plaintiff asserts that Defendants Citizens Financial Group, along with its parent corporation RBS Citizens, N.A., several of its banks, as well as numerous officers and executive committee members (collectively, "Defendants"), illegally fixed these overdraft charges in contravention of sections one and two of the Sherman Act,*fn2 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, 2, and New Jersey antitrust law, and forced Plaintiff to pay these fees through mail fraud, bank fraud, and extortion, thereby violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-68.

Defendants now move the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to state any claim for which relief may be granted [Docket Items 8 and 21].*fn3 The Court, having spent significant time parsing through Plaintiff's lengthy complaint and amended complaint and having considered all arguments made for and against this motion, will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss in full for the reasons set forth below. Plaintiff's amended complaint is dismissed with prejudice and Plaintiff may not further amend.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Though Plaintiff has submitted a sixty-six page initial complaint, followed by a fifty-seven page amended complaint, there are few facts in support of his claim for relief. At some point in time, Plaintiff and his mother, now deceased, opened a bank account with Citizens Bank in East Haven, Connecticut. (Am. Compl. at 10.) From the account's opening until January 2007, Social Security payments were automatically deposited into this account. (Id.) Over a period of almost one and a half years, from March 23, 2006 through July 30, 2007, Plaintiff incurred $772 in overdraft fees, though $144 of that was returned on Plaintiff's request. (Id. at 39-40). Plaintiff alleges that he has continued to incur overdraft fees, but has not provided the Court with any figures. (Id. at 10, 40.) According to Plaintiff these fees accumulate because Defendants intentionally delay the delivery of overdraft notices, such that Plaintiff has already accrued several days of penalties before he learns that he has insufficient funds in his account.*fn4 (Id. at 20, 41.)

These fees, Plaintiff alleges, are not the product of market forces, but instead have been falsely inflated either as a result of a conspiracy between Defendants and various "unknown person conspirators of competitor banks and/or bank enterprises" or because of Defendants' monopolization of the market. (Id. at 12, 25.) Plaintiff's allegations of conspiracy are founded on two things: (1) many of the individual defendants who are officers or members of the executive policy committee for Citizens Financial Group were previously employed by other banks, and (2) competitor banks have similar overdraft fees.*fn5 (Id. at 5-10, 27-32.) To show that Defendants maintain a monopoly, Plaintiff emphasizes that "Citizens Financial Group has $159 Billion in assets, making it one of the 10-largest commercial bank holding companies in the United States" and provides a history, evidently taken from Defendants' website, of Citizens Financial Group's growth and success. (Id. at 12-16.) Finally, Plaintiff points to the $18 increase in overdraft fees from 2006 to 2007, an unreasonable increase according to Plaintiff, as evidence of Defendants' illicit activity. (Id. at 19.)

According to Plaintiff, Defendants present the impression of governmental imprimatur which facilitates their collection of the overdraft fees. (Id. at 16-17, 42.) In support of this theory, Plaintiff offers a portion of a personal deposit account agreement and highlights references to the federal government, including the bank's recognition of federal bank holidays and the fact that "[the] account is also subject to federal law . . ." (Id. at 17.)

Relying on the aforementioned facts, Plaintiff has concluded that Defendants have set "excessive and collusive fees above free market influence for insufficient funds, overdrafts, available funds and sustained fees . . ." (Id. at 21-24.) He seeks declaratory relief as well as "such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper." (Id. at 55-57.)

B. Procedural History

On March 12, 2008, Plaintiff filed his initial complaint in this matter [Docket Item 1]. Defendants moved to dismissed that first complaint [Docket Item 8] and Plaintiff, without seeking leave from the Court, submitted a "Case Statement" in which he reiterated his RICO claims [Docket Item 9]. On July 7, 2008, again without leave from the Court, Plaintiff submitted an amended complaint [Docket Item 11]. Defendants likewise moved to dismiss this amended complaint [Docket Item 21]. Throughout this litigation Plaintiff has appeared pro se.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court must "'accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).

While Rule 12(b)(6) does not permit dismissal of a well-pleaded complaint simply because "it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable," the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level."

Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that 'raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).'" Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, --- U.S. ----, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007)).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." ...


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