American Airlines Account Shutdown ‘Victim’ Lawyers Up, Asks To Withdraw DOT Complaint

It was big news this past week when American Airlines responded forcefully to a complaint about shutting down a member’s account for opening various frequent flyer accounts in different names as part of a technique to generate several Citibank credit card signup offers.

American argued that the member (1) “engag[ed] in a fraudulent scheme to accrue bonus miles to which the member is not entitled” and (2) “Misrepresent[ed themselves] by opening multiple AAdvantage accounts using false information.”

The airline made strong arguments that the member opened a bunch of accounts fraudulently. That’s all they needed to win. The airline’s arguments, however that rules were broken actually opening Citibank accounts were weak and contradictory.

However the thing the airline did at the end of their response was perhaps the most forceful. American insinuated that the person filing the case ‘Maria Borges’ wasn’t really her, but others acting on her behalf perhaps without her knowledge, just as the ‘perpetrators’ of the scheme to open American Airlines accounts were doing so on behalf of people not involved in earning miles in the program.

The airline asked DOT to require “signature verification” and for DOT to insist on a re-submission. Now the person filing the complaint has done two things in response to American’s filing:

  1. They’ve hired an attorney

    COMES NOW, the CORONA LAW FIRM, P.A., and hereby files this Notice of Appearance on behalf of the Complainant, MARIA BORGES, and requests that all pleadings, motions, or correspondences be directed to the undersigned.

  2. The attorney filed for voluntary dismissal of the complaint

    COMPLAINANT, MARIA BORGES, by and through undersigned counsel, hereby
    voluntarily dismisses and withdraws the Complaint filed the above-styled matter.

This is very odd. A lawyer isn’t necessary to withdraw a complaint. It would be odd for a lawyer to represent that they are acting behalf of someone, if they’re really acting on behalf of a third party, especially in a federal government filing. But if the allegation wasn’t true, why withdraw versus allowing DOT to make an adverse ruling? And why not respond to the allegations if they aren’t true?

It makes sense not to allow an adverse ruling – DOT might be persuaded by the allegations of bad faith in fraudulently opening accounts, and give American tremendous leeway on their poor arguments about the propriety of earning multiple card bonuses. Perhaps the complainant is acting in the best interests of frequent flyer members everywhere, rather than just themselves, seeking to avoid a bad government ruling based on their own private bad facts. I am skeptical of this explanation however.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s a common tactic to avoid going through to a final ruling, losing, and having the prevailing party’s attorney’s fees and costs assessed against you, or perhaps having sanctions imposed against the losing party.

  2. Why did these idiots file a complaint in the first place if they were on such shaky ground? Arrogance? Greed? Anger at having adverse action taken against them?

  3. Someone finally explained to them their exposure, as I’m sure they used a chunk of those ill-gained miles for free flights before they got caught, and could be on the hook for the value of the same. Best to go away and hope they don’t get sued or that American makes a criminal complaint.

  4. If American’s allegations are true, the complainant may have committed multiple federal felonies, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, the latter of which carries a 2-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Counsel may have advised their client to drop the DOT complaint to avoid attracting the attention of federal prosecutors.

  5. The “CORONA LAW FIRM” At the risk of disparaging this random attorney, this is like the cherry on top…

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