HOW TO SERVE LEGAL PAPERS ON AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD SERVICES

American  Express Credit Card

By Akanksha A. Panicker

Hearing American Express words conjures up vignettes of wealth and flashiness that movies (and the legends around the black AmEx) card have fanned. However, American Express Card Services provides a range of services for people across financial strata. The American Express Company is a multinational financial services corporation. The company was founded in 1850 and is one of the thirty components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  The company’s logo, adopted in 1958, is a gladiator or centurion whose image appears on the company’s well-known traveler’s cheques, charge cards, and credit cards.

[1.0] BACKGROUND 

In 1850, American Express was started as an express mail business in Buffalo, New York. It was founded as a joint-stock corporation by the merger of the express companies owned by Henry Wells, William G. Fargo, and John Warren Butterfield. Wells and Fargo also started Wells Fargo & Co. in 1852 when Butterfield and other directors objected to American Express’s proposal to extend its operations to California. American Express began as a freight forwarding company in 1850, and in the late 19th century and early 20th century, it introduced new financial products and travel services for everyday needs. In the 1950s, they introduced a charge card, offering a new and convenient way to pay. When the U.S. federal government nationalized the express industry in 1918 [thereby consolidating all domestic express operations in the American Railway Express Company], American Express pivoted to its banking operations and its nascent travel services, which had been launched in 1915.

During the 1980s, Amex invested in the brokerage industry, acquiring what became, in increments, Shearson Lehman Hutton and then divesting these into what became Smith Barney Shearson (owned by Primerica) and a revived Lehman Brothers. By 2008 neither the Shearson nor the Lehman name existed. In 2016, credit cards using the American Express network accounted for 22.9% of the total dollar volume of credit card transactions in the United States.

[1.1.] WHAT DOES AMERICAN EXPRESS DO 

The American Express Corporation (AXP) is a multinational financial services firm that operates in the credit card market with Discover Financial Services (DFS), Visa Inc. (V), and Mastercard Incorporated (MA). Although credit card consumers may think these four rival firms are identical, the clients they represent and how they earn revenue vary. American Express and its rivals have more than just credit cards.

Discover Financial Services and American Express are the firms that issue the cards and therefore carry the funding risk. Customers are charged a fee for using the card, and merchants are often charged a fee. When an individual uses the American Express brand name card to make a credit purchase, the merchant receives exclusive approval from the corporation. This type of system is known as an open-loop system instead of the closed-loop system popular with the Visa and Mastercard business models. If the individual bears a debt, American Express charges them interest and other penalties, such as a late payment fee. This method allows American Express and Discover to produce revenue from credit card use by customers.

American Express is best known for its Green, Gold, and Platinum charge cards. The Gold Card has been converted to a credit card for UK residents but remains a charge card in the U.S. The Centurion Pass, commonly known as the ‘black card,’ was launched by American Express in 1999 to appeal to an ever more wealthy consumer group. The card was initially available only to select users of the Platinum card. In the 1980s, American Express developed the card series in response to rumors and urban legends. It produced an ultra-exclusive black card for wealthy consumers who could buy something with it.

All valid transactions begin with a card member’s purchase at the point of sale. Whether the physical card is used to facilitate a card-present charge, or the cardmember provides their cardmember information over the phone, via mail order, or the internet, the transaction must not be completed without the card and/or information provided by the cardmember.

To accept the card for charges at an establishment, at the point of sale, generally, the merchant must clearly and conspicuously disclose all material terms of the sale and inform the cardmember at all points of interaction what entity is making the sales offer so that he or she can distinguish the merchant from any other parties involved in the sales offer. The transaction data a merchant collects to facilitate the charge must be, or have been, provided directly to the merchant by the cardmember. Failure to meet this requirement may subject the merchant to data pass violation fees.

[2.0] SERVICE OF PROCESS ON THE REGISTERED AGENT

While the Secretary of State may be designated as an agent, it does not preclude any domestic corporation or authorized foreign corporation from also appointing a registered agent in the state upon whom process against such corporation may be served. The agent must be a natural person who resides in the state. If the agent is a corporation, they should be authorized to do business in the state. For American Express, the registered agent is CT corporation, or the Corporation Trust Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer; CT Corporation is the largest registered agent service firm globally, representing hundreds of thousands of business entities worldwide.

Any such designation of a registered agent may be made, revoked, or changed, and a registered agent may resign as such agent.  If the Department of State receives a Certificate of Resignation, the agent is terminated from their employ within thirty days. A certificate designating a new registered agent may be delivered to the department of state by the corporation within thirty days or thereafter.

[2.1] SERVICE OF A SUBPOENA ON AMERICAN EXPRESS

Subpoenas are formal instructions provided by a judge or regulatory body compelling an entity to appear in a trial or supply vital evidence in one. As a result, they are time-dependent. Lawyers must collect facts and depositions as soon as possible to organize their cases to meet their court date.

Subpoenas for American Express need to be provided to the registered agent. For subpoenas to be valid, they need to indicate the court and jurisdiction and include the case number and case style or even have an Agency Letterhead. Subpoenas given by the government are honored by American Express. American Express would not accept the service of subpoenas at all of its offices. Since American Express firms own several buildings, mailing and/or personal distribution of subpoenas to these places face interruption and/or denial.

Furthermore, the subpoena must be addressed and issued to the right entity of American Express, dated, and signed without fault. It must also provide either [A.] customer’s full SSN/EIN, [B.] customer’s full Account Number, [C.] customer’s full Name AND last 4 digits of SSN/EIN or [D.] Customer’s full Name AND last 5 digits of Account Number

Subpoenas may therefore indicate which documents and/or data are being obtained. Any subpoenas issued with broad demands (e.g., ‘any) can yield restricted responses. Furthermore, if no time frame is mentioned, the Agent can have the most recent six months of usable documents from the day they accept the subpoena.

Motions to Quash or Objections must be received before the date on which American Express must legally comply with the subpoena to prevent the release of records. In such instances, the compiled records will be retained and released only upon court order, the parties’ joint stipulation, or with the customer’s written authorization. American Express also reserves the right to request supporting documentation to determine how the records sought are relevant to the pending litigation or proceeding. 

It must be known that a motion to quash, fix conditions or modify a subpoena should be made promptly in the court in which the subpoena is returnable. If the subpoena is not returnable in a court, a request to withdraw or modify the subpoena shall first be made to the person who issued it, and a motion to quash,  fix condition or modify may thereafter be made in the supreme court. Additionally, reasonable conditions may be imposed upon the granting or denying a motion to quash or modify.

To provide additional documentation regarding a subpoena, including correspondence, motions, and objections, communication may be done via email or fax with the relevant name, phone number, American Express File Number, and Case Style, as required by American Express.

Once the response unit is duly presented with the subpoena, the turnaround period for subpoena fulfillment is about thirty calendar days. It may take longer in certain cases if exhaustive information is required or if requestors have inadequate information. Subpoena fulfillment can take up to sixty calendar days during peak times or higher volume periods.

American Express requires payment for their subpoena response services unless there are exceptions under state/federal law governing rates that may be charged.

Cash payments are not approved, and the American Express Subpoena Response Unit only accepts cheques made payable to American Express and, in certain cases, electronic funds transfers. Individuals would be sent an invoice for the money owed. The bill is due within thirty days; whereinafter unpaid invoices would be collected.

Most of the time, the Subpoena Response Unit does not keep a copy of the documents made. Should the individual need to reorder records, they would only be allowed to do so if said records are already under the relevant retention period for American Express. There might be exceptions where there are unique American Express rules or laws regulating record preservation.

Credit cards can come with plenty of useful benefits – cash back, travel rewards, access to luxury lounges, various types of primary and secondary coverage, and much more. American Express, over the years, has managed to be appealing as an option for all individuals. With a significant impact on global financial trends and the lasting appeal of the Amex Black Card, American Express has cemented itself as a major economic player. 

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Sources:

1. Headquartered at 200 Vesey Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan in New York City

2. Wells & Company

3. Livingston, Fargo & Company

4. Wells, Butterfield & Company, the successor earlier in 1850 of Butterfield, Wasson & Company

5. As of 31 December 2019, the company had 114.4 million cards in force, including 54.7 million cards in force in the United States, each with average annual spending of $19,972. These include consumer, small business, and corporate cards issued by American Express themselves and cards issued by its Global Service Network partners that run on its network (Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, and NAB in Australia and Lloyds Bank and Barclays Bank in the UK). On March 1, 2017, Australia’s fourth-largest bank ANZ, announced that it was no longer issuing American Express cards, with the support phased out entirely by August 5, 201

6. The annual fee for the card in the United States is USD5,000 (up from USD 1,000 at introduction) with an additional one-time initiation fee of USD 10,000.

7. N.Y. Bus. Corp. Law § 306

Service of process on the secretary of state as an agent of a domestic or authorized foreign corporation shall be made by personally delivering to and leaving with the secretary of state or a deputy, or with any person authorized by the secretary of state to receive such service, at the office of the department of state in the city of Albany, duplicate copies of such process together with the statutory fee, which fee shall be a taxable disbursement. Service of process on such corporation shall be complete when the secretary of state is so served. The secretary of state shall promptly send one of such copies by certified mail, return receipt requested, to such corporation, at the post office address, on file in the department of state, specified for the purpose. If a domestic or authorized foreign corporation has no such address on file in the department of state, the secretary of state shall so mail such copy, in the case of a domestic corporation, in care of any director named in its certificate of incorporation at the director’s address stated therein or, in the case of an authorized foreign corporation, to such corporation at the address of its office within this state on file in the department.

8. A multi-national information services company based in the Netherlands with operations in over 35 countries.

9. N.Y. Bus. Corp. Law § 305

A certificate, entitled ‘Certificate of the resignation of the registered agent of ………. (name of designating corporation) under section 305 of the Business Corporation Law’, shall be signed by him and delivered to the department of state. It shall set forth:

(1) That he resigns as a registered agent for the designating corporation.

(2) The date the certificate of incorporation or the application for the designating corporation’s authority was filed by the department of state.

(3) That he has sent a copy of the certificate of resignation by registered mail to the designating corporation at the post office address on file in the department of state specified for the mailing of process or if such address is the address of the registered agent, then to the office of the designating corporation in the jurisdiction of its formation or incorporation.

10. American Express

Attn: American Express
Subpoena Response Unit (SRU)
43 Butterfield Circle
El Paso, TX 79906

11. NY CPLR § 2304 (2015)

12. amexsru@aexp.com

13. Fax: 772-360-4756

14. Generally, the charges are as follows:

Labor $22.00 per hour

Copies $0.30 per page

Checks $5.00 per check

Redactions $1.00 per page

Shipping: Regular – 2 Days $15.00 minimum*

Shipping: Expedited – Overnight $25.00 minimum*

*Additional charges may apply. A minimum of one (1) hour labor fee is assessed.

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