$15 million vanishes into computer

February 18, 1994|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- In one of the biggest computer errors in banking history, Chemical Bank mistakenly deducted about $15 million from more than 100,000 customers' accounts on Tuesday night, causing panic and consternation among its customers around the New York area.

The problem stemmed from a single line in an updated computer program installed by Chemical on Tuesday that caused the bank to process every withdrawal and transfer at its automated teller machines twice.

Thus, a person who took $100 from a cash machine had $200 deducted, although the receipt indicated a withdrawal of only $100.

At a Chemical cash machine near Times Square, Rodney Love, a maintenance mechanic, said he could not withdraw money when he expected his account to have $80 in it. "I'm trying to get out some money and I can't," he said. "I'm disappointed in the system."

The mistake affected 150,000 transactions from Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon. Some checks were bounced yesterday morning as a result, although the bank said the number was small and that all account balances should be corrected by today.

"Our focus has been to fix the problem. Then we have some customer goodwill to resolve," said Ronald A. Braco, the senior vice president of Chemical in charge of automated teller machines.

Mr. Braco said the bank had been ready to advance cash to people who asked for help because their accounts were depleted by the error, but that no one had requested the assistance. "There have not been customers banging down the door saying 'I have to have money,' " he said.

Deposits made at ATMs were not affected, so no customers inadvertently had higher balances than they expected.

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