An elderly and disabled man was forced to take legal action after an error led to his $254,000 inheritance being put into someone else’s bank account.
Peter Teich, from Cambridge, U.K., told The Guardianthat he had given his name, address and Barclays bank account number to his solicitor—but he had gotten one digit wrong on his sort code. That error meant his inheritance was placed into another customer’s account, who according to the newspaper, refused to return it.
Teich, 74, said he realized his mistake after his sister got her share of their late father’s inheritance in April, but he didn’t. His solicitor contacted Barclays and was told the funds would be returned in a week.
But a month later, Barclays sent Teich a letter saying he had been “mis-advised” about the return of the money and offered him a token gesture of around $33 (£25).
According to The Guardian, Barclays asked the customer who received Teich’s inheritance for permission to return the funds, but the man had refused—and Barclays then informed Teich that because no error was made on the bank’s part, they couldn’t return the money.
Teich said he hired lawyers to recover his inheritance after Barclays told him he bore the “full and sole responsibility” of pursuing the customer he branded “dishonest.” After spending more than $60,000 (£46,000) in court and legal fees over months, a court ordered the other customer to repay the money.
“I freely acknowledge my mistake in this unhappy saga: I provided the sort code to the wrong Barclays branch,” Teich told The Guardian. “But my error fades into near insignificance when considered in the context of Barclays’ conduct.”
He finally received his inheritance in July, but when he asked Barclays to cover his legal fees, the bank refused. It was only after Teich spoke to The Guardian about the ordeal he went through to recover his own money that the bank agreed to pay his legal costs in full as well as $990 (£750) as compensation.
In a statement provided to Newsweek, Barclays apologized for the “distress and inconvenience” the ordeal caused Teich. “It is evident that on this occasion we have failed to meet the high standards that Mr Teich can except to receive from Barclays, and for this we have offered our sincere apologies,” a Barclays spokesperson said.
“After taking a closer look at this situation, we can confirm that Mr Teich can expect the fees he has incurred to be refunded in full with interest, together with a payment for the distress and inconvenience this matter has caused.”
Although Teich is glad to have the matter resolved, he said none of it would have occurred if U.K. banks matched account numbers and sort codes with the name of the recipient.
The BBC reported that from spring of next year, customers will be alerted if a recipient’s name does not match the account details provided.
According to The Guardian‘s obituary, Teich’s father Mikuláš Teich, a professor at the University of Cambridge, died aged 100 last year. He had managed to escape Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, but his parents had perished in the Holocaust.