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Banking while black: Bay Area man humiliated by Wells Fargo over check-cashing, lawsuit claims

Ethan Baron, The Mercury News on

Published in News & Features

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Retired cable car operator Daniel Knight walked into a Wells Fargo bank in Antioch with two checks to cash. He wasn't a customer of the bank, but the check writer was, and Knight had several times cashed checks from the same man at Wells Fargo after showing the required two pieces of identification, he says.

What allegedly happened next led to humiliation for Knight, and a lawsuit claiming the bank discriminated against him because he's black.

Wells Fargo said it takes seriously the lawsuit's allegations, and opposes any kind of discrimination. "We believe that Mr. Knight does not accurately describe the events that transpired and look forward to defending this matter in court," said Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido.

Knight, 65 at the time and a Contra Costa County resident, alleged in his suit that when he walked into the bank branch in 2017, a manager told him that because he wasn't a Wells Fargo customer, he would need to show two pieces of identification. Knight, familiar with the requirement, stepped into line for a teller and got his California driver's license and two credit cards ready, he claimed in the suit filed Thursday in Northern California U.S. District Court.

But when he reached the counter, the teller told him she needed to verify the checks by calling the man who wrote them, Knight claimed. The man did not answer his phone, and the teller told Knight she couldn't cash the checks until the man could be reached, Knight alleged.

Knight went to the branch manager, and explained that he had previously cashed several checks from the same Wells Fargo customer, and had shown the necessary ID, Knight claimed.


"The manager refused to help and refused to cash the checks," he alleged.

Knight, of Oakley, claimed he called the check writer, who asked to speak to the manager.

"The manager refused to accept the phone call on Mr. Knight's phone and said the check-writing customer had to call the branch directly," he claimed. The man phoned and told the bank "he had never been called before when his white or Asian acquaintances went to the bank to cash his checks," Knight claimed.

The check writer also said he had written three more checks to Knight that Knight would also be coming in to cash, according to the suit.


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