Bank of Guam has returned EIP funds back to US Internal Revenue Service that were sent in “error” to 111 account holders at Bank of Guam Branch in Palau, according to response letter sent by President & CEO Joaquin P.L.G. Cook of the Bank of Guam to President Tommy Remengesau Jr.
Furthermore, the bank said they cannot “terminate holds” that were placed on accounts as requested by President Remengesau in his August 14th letter.
Letter asserts that the Bank’s “actions were based on its responsibility to monitor and prevent unlawful activity” in its institution and did not base their action solely on Palau’s Ministry of State press release, although it did serve to bring the matter to their attention.
Mr. Cook assured that the account that were already receiving US Social Security retirement, survivor, disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income, VA Compensation and Pension (C&P) through direct deposit were credited and not placed on holds. “The bank has the ability to identify all of the aforementioned automatic payments processed by the U.S. Government and EIP deposits in question.”
The bank letter also stated that account holders that provided their copy of the 2018 or 2019 IRS Tax Returns were credited and no holds were placed on their deposits.
President Remengesau’s August 14th letter to Bank of Guam had expressed disappointment over the bank’s action to place hold on accounts that received EIP funds without a direct order from US IRS to do so in the first place.
Remengesau had insisted in his letter that if there is an issue, it should be resolved by the US IRS and the beneficiary.
“The fact that you have now reported these holds to the IRS does not change the fact that you imposed these holds in the first place, without any request to do so by the IRS…Without a specific response from IRS, these funds should not just be held indefinitely” stated Remengesau.
The bank’s response insisted that it had acted “lawfully and fairly. “To the extent that the Bank was able to verify the account holder’s eligibility, we did not place hold on those accounts. However, for all cases referred to IRS, the feedback we have received so far indicates that those account holders were not eligible to receive EIP.”
The bank reported that they have been instructed to return EIP funds deposited to 111 accounts in Palau to IRS. Copy of redacted letter from IRS was provided with the letter.
Response from the Office of the President regarding the latest response from Bank of Guam stated, “The Bank of Guam has responded by referring to a small fraction of the accounts affected. In reality, there are still many Bank of Guam customers in limbo, and this is not acceptable to Palau. The end of the line is when Bank of Guam behaves lawfully and treats its Palau customers with respect by resolving all outstanding holds.”
The bank expressed that it had served Palauan community for over 30 years and value the partnership and even though they cannot terminate the hold as requested, they will continue to treat the matter with “highest urgency.”