Bank of Valletta — Bank of Valletta Rips Me Off For Thousands
For background on Bank of Valletta (BOV) feel free to check out their wikipedia ad. I am an American and recently traveled to Malta to open a personal account to process international transactions. I used a wire from my American bank account to fund my new account. That wire was converted from dollars to euros, against my directions, at a markup in the thousands. BOV refuses to recognize any mistake and insists I am solely liable for the loss.
Unbeknownst to me and contrary to repeated verbal sentiment, my account was set up as euros-only. The clerk who set up my account neglected at every opportunity to mention this fact and took every opportunity to speed me through the signing of the paperwork. Still she gave the impression that the important parts were covered. Not yet committing any money and having no reason to believe my instructions were unclear, I signed through the paperwork without much thought. I told the clerk I was going to wire in money from my American bank account (about $122000) and asked what fees I might expect. I was told to expect about a $12 fee to receive a wire. I was given a receipt of my account opening which I directed to my American bank. The receipt had no mention that my account was euros-only. I sent my American bank written instructions to make sure that my wire not be converted to a foreign currency and signed their "hold harmless" form. Unfortunately they were too lazy to relay that message to the intermediary bank (they merely put a big star next to the USD code) and BOV automatically converted my wire to euros at a markup in the thousands. The wire form my American bank filled out had not been sent to me for review.
When I found out what happened I immediately complained and, after a few uncomplimentary emails, the local branch afforded me a sit down. By this time I had lost another couple thousand dollars via changes in the global exchange rate. The manager said she was not caught up on the situation and I got no indication my previous emails were read in any detail. The clerk was there and said it should have been "implicit" an account would be set up in the local currency. Management told me that BOV was set up to process such conversions automatically and that they "had nothing to do with it". They told me that once a transaction was logged it was not in any way "possible" to make an adjustment. The summation of their argument against me was that I signed the account opening form. They offered to convert my euros back to dollars free of markup. They said it was not possible to remove the markup on the original conversion. I was offered a cup of coffee. I was told, hey, if the exchange rate improved I could recoup my loss. I asked if I could have copies of any of the forms I signed which they had in plain sight. They said I would need to go to their department of marketing (in another city) and was not given an email, phone number, or website address (I could find neither on the BOV website). I was told they would not formally agree there was a "dispute" and that their lawyer gave me about two sentences of his time. They said I could pursue legal action if I liked.
After warning BOV that I would make numerous online complaints against them, my disputed dispute was escalated to management at the main branch. After having "thoroughly investigated the issue" they concluded that my account being exclusive to euros "was opened in line with my instructions" and that I was "aware that a deposit in USD would involve a currency conversion to Euro". This is despite a massive amount of correspondence and common sense evidence to the contrary. I could have cheaply converted my dollars to euros elsewhere had I wanted to do that. Instead, I got converted to a currency I did not want and had to convert back to dollars elsewhere. BOV has negligible overhead for such conversions and yet insists on making thousands of dollars for administration that ultimately was not competent enough to fulfill the customer's wishes. When confronted with the issue, not for one second did BOV concern itself with what was right or wrong or in fair proportion. They immediately defaulted to paper weaponry and legal "gotcha". The account opening form I had signed apparently had "EUR" written on it and apparently had "I have been provided with the terms and conditions relative to the account and agree to be bound by them." BOV has made it clear this is what it reduces to. Incidentally I hadn't been provided with the T&C (that I am aware of) but I did sign. Also my signature on the account form does not indicate that I knew the account was euros-only. I never selected that option. It was filled in ahead of time. Since this issue was escalated to the main branch, one might interpret this ruling to be indicative of their greater corporate philosophy.
All in all my experience with BOV leaves much to be desired. It took them 3+ weeks to coordinate a simple referral with my old bank and that after intervention on my part. They were unable to deliver a simple letter to my apartment about two blocks away. I had to come pick it up. They botched up simple instructions like "I want to bank in dollars". They wouldn't forward me a small amount of money against over $100000 in checks. In their dismissive letter of my complaint they announce they have enclosed a signed transaction voucher but failed to enclose it. Their customer service department failed to make any response to two separate requests for my signed account opening form. The complaint submission form on their website blanked out both times I tried it. They forgot to give me a receipt for the subsequent opening of my USD account. Must be nice to have paper to hide behind. To change even trivial amounts of money at the teller I had to explicitly sign a form. I really didn't think something like this could happen, i.e. that plain language discourse would be enough. Do I have any real recourse? Does anybody know?