U.S. federal officials are reviewing practices used by American Express to market its small business credit cards, including the potential use of aggressive and misleading tactics to sell the cards to business owners, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation.
The tactics were used by “some salespeople” to coerce business owners into signing up for new cards in a bid to increase sales numbers, according to the report. The improper tactics included misrepresenting card rewards and fees, as well as issuing cards that hadn’t been requested, the report said.
The Journal said the investigation involved inspectors general offices at the Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve, while noting that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also is investigating practices connected to American Express’ small business card sales.
An American Express spokesperson confirmed to BTN that the credit card giant since spring 2020 has been “cooperating with a regulatory review” of small business card sales between 2015 and 2016 but disputed the report’s characterization of a multi-agency investigation—saying instead that the various offices have informally shared resources with each other.
“We have conducted a detailed, independent review of these sales from this time period, and found no evidence of a pattern of misleading sales practices,” the Amex spokesperson added. “We take these matters seriously and will continue to cooperate with our regulators.”
The investigation is not connected to American Express’s corporate card line, the spokesperson said.