By Lincoln DePradine
National Bank of Canada is losing a Black entrepreneur Dr C. Justine Pierre and facing legal action over a cheque the bank withheld, claiming it may be “fraudulent’’.
Pierre, an expert in migration and labour market research, is director of Dunn, Pierre, Barnett & Company Canada Ltd., a Black research, human resource development, consulting and training firm. The company has conducted more than 60 projects in 40 countries within the last 10 years, including a “Black Labour Market Needs Assessment’’, which was administered on behalf of the Afro-Canadian Business Network.
According to Pierre, the inability to access funds from the $233,645 cheque at National Bank had a “tremendous’’ negative impact on his business operations and “severely injured my financial and credit reputation’’.
“I couldn’t pay bills, I couldn’t pay my creditors, I couldn’t pay my staff. I wish to be compensated for that,’’ Pierre told The Caribbean Camera in an interview.
Pierre said the cheque, in his name, was first cleared by TD Bank. He then took it for deposit at National Bank, where he has been doing company business.
“I went to the bank on the second of September to deposit a cheque. I endorsed the cheque, as is standard in the banking industry, and deposited the cheque into my business account,’’ he related.
“The teller looked at the cheque and said it was above her limit and she has to go to her supervisor. I went to the supervisor and the supervisor sanctioned the cheque and it was deposited into my account’’.
However, Pierre was informed that the cheque was placed on hold and it was referred to National Bank of Canada’s investigative department.
In one call from his National Bank account manager, Pierre said she told him that she “cannot release the hold on the cheque because that cheque may be a fraud cheque’’.
He was asked, he said, to provide the name and address of the person who wrote the cheque, and also the contact information for the TD Bank manager where the cheque was originally cleared.
The Caribbean Camera has seen correspondence between Pierre and National Bank representatives, with him repeatedly enquiring about the money and pleading for its release.
“I am now arranging additional financing to cover my expenses to my creditors, which must be paid before October 5, 2023,’’ he said in one of his correspondences.
Caribbean Camera attempted to contact National Bank officials, emailing them several questions including what about the cheque that suggested that it may have been fraudulent; and asking for a response to allegations that Pierre’s race was a factor in holding up the release of the funds to him.
Up to press time, National Bank had not responded.
Black-owned businesses, such as Dunn, Pierre, Barnett & Company Canada Ltd., “are the most discriminated group in the Canadian banking system’’, Pierre said. “The situation with financing for Black Businesses is very severe, as most Banks do not provide credit for Black companies in Canada.’’
His company, said Pierre, has been in business for more than 15 years, “without credit facilities from any Banks. In 2019, we established a line of credit with the National Bank, which was 100 percent secured with our US$50,000 term deposit. No credit facilities were ever given to us, even though we have had over $50 million dollars in revenue, which has passed through the company over those years’’.
About three weeks after the deposit at National Bank, the funds were released to Pierre, with no reasons offered on exactly why the cheque was flagged as “fraudulent’’.
“They said it was a mistake, they apologized, and they offered to give me coupons or something like that,’’ said Pierre.
Pierre said he’s taking legal action against National Bank and has hired a lawyer to act on his behalf.
He’s also moving his company’s account to Bank of Montreal, where a $700,000 line of credit already has been agreed to and established.