May 15, 2014

NIAC Urges Bank of America to Halt Iranian Account Closures


Press Release - For Immediate Release

Washington DC — The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) expresses serious concern over the recent string of bank account closures at Bank of America that target Iranians and Iranian-Americans and urges Bank of America to halt all further account closures and to revise its enforcement policy in order to provide necessary notice and recourse to its customers of Iranian descent. NIAC is alarmed that the over-enforcement of US sanctions targeting Iran is leading to discriminatory policies against Iranians and Iranian-Americans.

Over the past month, NIAC has received dozens of communications from Iranians and Iranian-Americans who have had their accounts closed at Bank of America without prior notice.

“Bank of America’s recent actions are disturbing and suggest that it has resorted to profiling and discrimination to comply with US sanctions against Iran,” said Jamal Abdi, NIAC’s Policy Director. “This shows once again the harmful consequences of the US’s overly broad sanctions regime, including for Iranians and Iranian-Americans here in the United States.”

Under the sanctions, US banks are barred from providing banking services to Iran, including to residents of Iran when they are in Iran. Because of the strict penalties associated with violating the sanctions, banks often over-enforce the sanctions by closing or suspending accounts of persons of Iranian descent, without prior notice and on the barest of evidence.

Recent closures, including the ones at Bank of America, have especially targeted Iranian students studying in the United States, many of whom rely exclusively on their bank accounts for funds.

“It is unfortunate that at the same time the US government seeks to promote student exchanges between the US and Iran, its sanctions policies work to undercut the goodwill it is trying to create,” said Abdi. “Subjecting Iranian students to the discriminatory practices of US banks, who are themselves trying to comply with US law, is a poor introduction to the United States.”

Bank of America’s action follows a number of similar cases, including that of TCF Bank which is now under investigation for potential civil rights violations in Minnesota. Last month, Bank of Hawaii quickly worked to restore closed Iranian students’ bank accounts it had closed and put in place a solid compliance program to ensure no repeat instances.


The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the interests of the Iranian-American community. We accomplish our mission by supplying the resources, knowledge and tools to enable greater civic participation by Iranian Americans and informed decision-making by policymakers.

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