Bait & Switch at the Bank, Class Claims

     BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CN) – Heartland Bank lures customers with the promise of low interest rates on commercial loans, makes them sign deceptive contracts and ultimately charges more, according to a class action complaint filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

     Named plaintiff Westbrooke Properties says Heartland caught it in a bait-and-switch scheme. The bank used confusing language to hide the higher interest rates in loan documents.
     While the concealed rate was neither usurious nor in excess of any statutory ceiling, Westbrooke says it was simply was more than it bargained for.
     The company says, for example, that Heartland represented an initial interest rate of 8.75 percent per annum, but instead charged an interest rate of 8.8725 percent per annum.
     “In enticing the plaintiff into consenting to the Bank’s preparation of their loan documents, the Bank concealed from the plaintiff the material fact that it intended to insert boilerplate language into the plaintiff’s loan documents that the Bank would later claim deprived the plaintiff of the benefit of their bargained for annual per annum interest rate by entitling the Bank to charge interest in excess of the parties’ agreed upon fixed or initial annual interest rate clearly stated in the plaintiff’s notes,” the complaint states.
     Westbrooke sued Heartland on behalf of all entities that took out commercial loans with the bank between May 10, 2001, and May 10, 2011, who were charged a higher interest rate than the per annum rate listed in the loan documents.
     The class seeks damages and a ruling requiring Heartland to recalculate the principal balance on current commercial loans in which Heartland charged excess interest. It is represented by Bernard Ysursa with Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer & Shevlin.

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