By AnnaMaria Andriotis 

American Express Co. acknowledged Friday that government agencies, including the Department of Justice, have reviewed the company's sales practices regarding small-business cards.

The company said in a regulatory filing that in May it began responding to a regulatory review led by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the DOJ's civil division. AmEx said the review was connected to "historical sales practices relating to certain small business card sales."

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that federal investigators including the inspectors general offices of the Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve were investigating AmEx card sales. The investigators were looking into whether the company used aggressive and misleading sales tactics to sell cards to business owners and whether customers were harmed, the Journal reported.

The Justice Department is working with those offices, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Journal also reported last month that the OCC was investigating the company's business-card sales practices.

More than a dozen current and former AmEx employees previously told the Journal that some salespeople strong-armed or misled small-business owners into signing up for cards to boost sales numbers. Some salespeople misrepresented card rewards and fees, or issued cards that customers hadn't sought, they said. AmEx has previously said it found only a very small number of problems that were resolved "promptly and appropriately," including through disciplinary action.

AmEx said Friday that it had "conducted an internal review of certain sales from 2015 and 2016" and had "taken appropriate disciplinary and remedial actions, including voluntarily providing remediation to certain current and former customers."

AmEx also said in its Friday regulatory filing that it received a grand-jury subpoena last month from the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York regarding small-business card sales. It also said it had received a civil investigative demand from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau "seeking information on sales practices related to consumers."

The company said in the filing: "We are cooperating with all of these inquiries and have continued to enhance our controls related to our sales practices. We do not believe this matter will have a material adverse impact on our business or results of operations."

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 12, 2021 16:50 ET (21:50 GMT)

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