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BARNETT BANK AGREES TO SETTLE CONSUMER CLASS ACTION ALLEGING AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE OVERCHARGES

 JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Barnett Banks, Inc. (NYSE: BBI) announced today that it has agreed, pending court approval, to a settlement of a consumer class action brought on behalf of a group of its customers entitled Gross v. Barnett Banks, Inc., et. al.
 The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Jacksonville, alleges that certain loan customers who failed, as required by the terms of their loan agreement, to purchase or maintain collision and comprehensive insurance on financed motor vehicles and boats were improperly charged for other insurance coverages which were not fully disclosed.
 Barnett denies all of the claims asserted in the lawsuit and contends that it acted lawfully in purchasing and charging customers for what is known as collateral protection insurance.
 According to Barnett's counsel, David M. Wells of Mahoney Adams & Criser, and Peter W. Homer of Greer, Homer & Bonner, the bank agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid the burden and expense of litigation. "Had the matter gone to trial, it would have been established that the bank's practices were consistent with industry practice and were entirely lawful," Wells said. However, Barnett recognized that the disclosure information in the contract signed by borrowers did not explain in detail the costs and types of coverage and, in fact, the bank took the initiatiave and voluntarily changed its practices in 1991, Homer added.
 Under the terms of the settlement, Barnett has agreed to pay $16 million to make partial refunds to the class of its customers charged for motor vehicle and boat collateral protection insurance between January 1, 1985 and September 30, 1993. Those customers who have fully paid all amounts owed to the bank will be eligible to receive a partial cash refund and those customers with outstanding balances will be eligible to receive a partial credit payment. As a result of the 1991 change in practices, much of the financial impact had been previously recognized. The parties have also agreed to the entry of an order which will regulate Barnett's collateral protection insurance activities over the next two years and which will bar future claims against the bank concerning its motor vehicle and boat collateral protection programs.
 Gerald F. Richman, the Miami attorney representing the plaintiff class in the lawsuit, hailed the settlement as an important victory for consumers. "The banks and automobile finance companies have all too frequently engaged in the
types of practices challenged in this litigation." Richman noted that "the willingness of Barnett, a leader in the finance industry, to remedy and put an end to these practices should send a wakeup call to other lenders in Florida."
 -0- 10/8/93
 /NOTE TO EDITOR: Barnett has established a toll-free telephone line that contains a recorded message answering basic customer questions about the settlement. The number is 800-742-2474/
 /CONTACT: Bob Stickler (media), 904-791-5437, or (home), 904-396-9284, or Helen Rowan (analysts), 904-791-7627 or (home), 904-272-6915, both of Barnett Banks, Inc./
 (BBI)


CO: Barnett Banks, Inc. ST: Florida IN: FIN SU:

JB-PC -- FL004 -- 0236 10/08/93 14:40 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Oct 8, 1993
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