Banking Discrimination

End Banking Discrimination

For years, NIAC has been tracking reports as innocent Iranian Americans, Iranian nationals and other minority groups have faced discrimination by U.S. financial institutions enforcing sanctions. NIAC is fighting to protect our community's rights from banking discrimination through legal, policy, and political means.

Has your bank closed your account without notice or due to your heritage? Your story could help end this shameful practice.

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For years, Iranian Americans, Iranian nationals and other minority groups have been discriminated against by U.S. financial institutions. Several regulations, including sweeping U.S sanctions against Iran, have led to no-notice bank account freezes and even closures, causing immense disruption to lives solely on the basis of their national heritage. 

NIAC hosted civil rights and sanctions experts to discuss the causes of bank closures that target Iranian Americans and what legal and policy changes can prevent banking discrimination.

Updates >>

Congress to Biden: Halt Bank Discrimination Against Iranians

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) sent a letter signed by 22 lawmakers to the White House regarding the closure of American citizens’ and permanent residents’ bank accounts on the basis of their national origin. National Iranian American Council Action was proud to endorse this letter as part of our years-long efforts to educate policymakers about the damage caused by discriminatory account closures. 

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NIAC Continues to Engage PayPal and Venmo on Community’s Concerns with Account Freezes

The pervasive effect of sanctions is evident in everyday life for Iranian Americans. Stories of account freezes and bank account closures for Iranian Americans have proven all too common. One of the financial institutions responsible for many of the complaints from our members is Venmo, which routinely reviews transactions involving words with connections to sanctioned states. It is often a painful reminder of how our community has been vilified in the United States that simply using certain words associated with Iran in a transaction description could be flagged for further review or cause accounts to be frozen. 

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NIAC Sends Letter to Venmo and PayPal After Discriminatory Account Freezes

We write to outline our concern that Venmo and its parent company Paypal, Inc. have engaged in actions toward account holders with Iranian heritage that many in our community perceive as discrimination against their national origin or heritage. This includes freezing transactions and accounts for simple transactions involving keywords like “Iranian” or “Persian.” Additionally, we have received increasing reports that Venmo has been messaging Iranian Americans asking them to verify their identity, including by requesting copies of a government-issued ID. For those who fail to provide the information, their accounts are closed. 

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NIAC Calls for Bank of America to Stop Closures of Iranian American Bank Accounts

I am writing on behalf of the National Iranian American Council (“NIAC”), the largest grassroots organization in the United States representing the interests of Iranian Americans, regarding Bank of America’s treatment of its U.S. customers of Iranian origin. Over the past several years, we have received persistent questions and complaints from Iranian Americans and Iranian nationals in the U.S. whose bank accounts have been abruptly closed by Bank of America – in some cases without notice and in other cases even when documents requested by the bank were submitted by these customers that confirmed that the provision of services to such customers was lawful.1 Our review of this material indicates that Bank of America has adopted policies and practices that are clearly discriminatory towards customers of Iranian origin. We therefore request that Bank of America immediately remediate its internal policies and procedures to ensure that such discrimination ceases. Absent such steps, we reserve the right to pursue litigation regarding this matter.

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NIAC and PayPal Take Steps to Address Payment Concerns Within Venmo

The National Iranian American Council (“NIAC”) and PayPal Inc. issued the following joint statement regarding certain difficulties Iranian Americans were having using Venmo during the Persian New Year:

During the recent Persian New Year (“Norooz”), some Iranian Americans ran into difficulties while trying to send certain payments within Venmo, a peer-to-peer mobile payment service. Specifically, the use of specific keywords in the payment message – such as “Persian” and “Iran” – were triggering a compliance review by Venmo to ensure that the payments were not in violation of U.S. sanctions regarding Iran. These reviews delayed the processing of payments and required Venmo’s inquiries into the purpose of the payment.

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Update on Account Closures at Bank of America

Bank of America has issued a response to NIAC’s request for the bank to stop closing accounts of Iranians located in the US. In its letter, Bank of America states that Iranian accounts are being terminated in order to uphold the bank’s “due diligence” obligations under US sanctions law.

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