ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Jacob Broda doesn’t want to talk about it. Smoothing his hair for the camera and waiting patiently as a microphone is clipped on his collar, the 7-year-old asked, “Am I going to have to talk about Bank of America at all?”
In fairness, Jacob has heard more than any kid cares to about the second-largest bank in the country. His parents have spent the past four years fighting BOA for their money back.
“It sucks up so much time to be in a lawsuit like this,” Jacob’s mom, Jessica Broda, said. “They've hurt Jacob, they've hurt the family. And they've made us spend the last four years of our lives just rotating around this.”
The case began simply enough with an accidental deposit to Jacob’s “Coogan account.” Designed to shield child actors from avaricious parents, Coogan accounts are a kind of income lockbox, with no withdrawals permitted before the age of 18.
Jacob has a Coogan because he starred in a single commercial when he was a year old. He made $75.
But in 2018, Jessica Broda accidentally deposited a sizeable refund check from a car dealer into an account that, on the bank app, was listed as “regular savings.” Broda realized immediately that it hadn’t gone to her savings but into Jacob’s Coogan account. But Broda says bank officials told her not to worry: The check was made out to her husband, and since his name wasn’t on the Coogan account, the deposit wouldn’t process.
“They said, ‘It's not gonna clear, it's not gonna clear’ … and then it clears,” Broda said*. “And then it suddenly became my problem.”
*The bank does not specifically deny those assurances were made, but says there is “no record evidence” to prove it.
That was four years ago. Despite years of effort and an ongoing civil lawsuit, they still don’t have their money back.
Worse, they’ve been plunged into a kind of bizarro world of proprietary negotiation. Initially, Bank of America told them that in order to get their $35,000 back, they would need a court order – something that would’ve cost about $7,000. The company subsequently agreed to return the money without a court order, but their proposal classified the transaction as a “payment” rather than a “transfer,” which could have made it subject to taxes. They also objected to a confidentiality clause that would have prevented them from discussing the case with family members.
When the Brodas removed that wording and sent a signed version back to the bank official, Broda said, “he ghosted us.”
Then, the money in the account – including Jacob’s $75 – vanished. A zero balance. Later still, the account showed a balance of negative $35,000.
The bank offered “no explanation,” Broda said. (In a court filing, the bank says the funds “remain in a suspense account” pending the outcome of the case.)
Other strange things began happening. On June 2 of last year, David Broda checked his credit rating and realized his pristine score had plummeted by more than 100 points. The apparent reason? Eleven unexplained credit inquiries by Bank of America between 2019 and 2020. A week later, after Jessica Broda asked a bank official about it, the 11 inquiries mysteriously disappeared – along with David Broda’s own inquiry from June 2. His credit search history was wiped clean.
That same June day, the Brodas received a call from a Bank of America employee, which Jessica Broda recorded. (The Brodas’ attorney later verified she was an actual BOA employee.)
“I reviewed your situation last night real quickly, and wanted to make contact with you the first thing,” the bank employee said. “I know in the past, you were given direction that you needed a court order to go ahead and get the funds transferred. But we have received legal approval and leadership approval to go ahead and get the funds transferred. I just need to know where we're going to be transferring the funds.”
Broda referred the woman to her attorney, since the matter was in active litigation. The BOA rep said she would “reach out to my leadership team and let them know that you did not want to discuss the matter today or approve the transfer.”
“Trying to settle the whole thing out of thin air, it just was really creepy,” Broda said. “It just sounded completely crooked. And like if there was a scheme going on of some sort.”
Bank officials declined multiple requests for comment since First Coast News began reporting on this story last year, and did so again this week. In an email, a company spokesperson cited the bank’s recent motion to dismiss the case, saying, “You’ll have plenty to work with from us with this document, including details of our efforts to undo the deposit error.”
It the motion, the bank says Broda’s “erroneous deposit” is governed by contracts signed when Jacob’s “deposits only” account was created – specifically that “the customer is ultimately ‘responsible for any claim, cost, loss or damage caused by your failure to properly identify the account to which a deposit is made.’”
The bank also said that, although the account name appears as “regular savings” on the mobile app, the last four digits of the account were also listed and, “it is reasonable for [BOA] to expect that customers will know their own account numbers and exercise caution when depositing checks into their accounts.”
The bank also denied they breached their responsibility to the couple.
“Though plaintiffs allege that the placed their trust and confidence in [BOA], there is no record evidence demonstrating that [BOA] in turn accepted their plaintiff’s confidence and trust.”
The bank concluded it has made “multiple efforts to accommodate [the Brodas] and release the funds (despite their refusal to seek a court order) to no avail.”
The case had been set for trial in June, but both sides agreed to a continuance. Last week, the bank filed a motion to prevent the case from going before a jury – a request the judge previously denied. And their motion for summary judgement, which the Brodas countered with one of their own, is pending.
All of which means there is “No end in sight,” Broda said. “It's been very, very interesting to see how supposedly the No. 1 financial institution for the people in America has destroyed us in this long battle.”