In Orange County, only two major businesses offer money-transfer services to Vietnam, and based on U.S. banking laws, both have relied on accounts at Wells Fargo Bank to satisfy American regulators.
But now one of those Little Saigon businesses, Saigon Central Post of Westminster, is suing the banking institution for closing its account suddenly and without explanation, a move a lawyer for the transfer company claims is intentional interference with a lawful business in a scheme to aid its competitor, Anh Minh Money Transfer.
But why would anyone at Wells Fargo care?
According to the lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court, a Wells Fargo executive named Cassidy Dao has "at least a $600,000" financial interest in Anh Minh Money Transfer.
Phat Nguyen, president of Saigon Central Post, which does business under the name Hoa Phat Money Transfer, claims in a supporting declaration seeking a temporary restraining order against the bank that he learned of Dao's personal financial ties to his competitor when he won a lawsuit against it and collected a $557,000 judgment in 2009.
That case also centered on Anh Minh Money Transfer's intentional interference with Saigon Central Post's business.
The letter Wells Fargo sent to Saigon Central Post (coldly addressed "Dear Business Owner" with a P.O. Box return address) was a form letter sent without a signature; it claimed the bank did not have to disclose any reason for closing the account.
Nguyen said in his declaration that closing his account was "retaliation" by Dao for his previous courthouse victory over Anh Minh Money Transfer because it handed her financial partners an unfair economic advantage by "eliminating its main competitor."
"Without a bank account at a major international bank, I will not be able to operate my money-transfer business," said Nguyen, who--with his wife--fled Vietnam as a refugee in 1981 to escape life under communist control.
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Efforts to contact Dao for comment on the allegations were unsuccessful.
Vietnamese American immigrants in the U.S. pay money-transfer services a small fee to deliver funds to their families in Vietnam.
The case has been assigned to Judge Francisco F. Firmat.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly