(CN) - A Bank of America policy requiring U.S. citizens to provide a Social Security number to open a credit card while letting foreign nationals use other forms of identification does not discriminate against U.S. citizens, a California appeals court ruled.
The bank is required by federal law to collect Social Security numbers from U.S. citizens, the 4th District Court of Appeal ruled. Denying accounts to foreign nationals would appear discriminatory and put the bank at risk of facing lawsuits, the ruling states.
According to the underlying class action, the credit card promotion unfairly allowed foreign nationals to use a passport, border crossing card or Mexican Matricula Card to open accounts. The bank's action violated the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, the class members claimed. They said the promotion would aid terrorists, encourage illegal immigration and identity theft, and enable money laundering. And foreign nationals would not have to report interest to the IRS, the class added.
"[T]he decision to allow foreign nationals to apply for credit cards without a Social Security number was reasonable and nondiscriminatory," Justice William Bedsworth wrote.
The state civil rights law does not prevent businesses from drawing distinctions based on national origin, the appeals court ruled, but protects against unreasonable or arbitrary discrimination.
The justices said they "heartily agree" with the lower court's ruling for the bank, saying BofA had simply applied federally imposed minimum identification requirements to its account process.
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