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Your Take: What Would You Do With a $7 Million Bank Error?

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Sometimes I read news stories and wondering – what were they thinking?

Hui “Leo” Gao was your average gas station owner in New Zealand. He applied for a line of credit at his bank (Westpac) and instead of getting access to NZ$100,000, he was given access to NZ$10,000,000 – or about seven million bucks USD. The bank didn’t realize its mistake until Gao withdrew $6.8 million from the account over the span of a month and deposited it to banks in Hong Kong and China. Then he fled. His girlfriend, Hurring, went with him and they took their six year old daughter. Hurring was caught two years later when she returned to New Zealand to renew her daughter’s passport. Gao was arrested in Hong Kong and extradited to New Zealand. Westpac recovered $2.9 million but $3.8 million is still outstanding.

We all know that bank errors in real life are not like bank errors in Monopoly. You don’t get to keep the cash. I suppose Gao saw the millions and decided that taking the cash and running was worth risking the inevitable jail time when he got caught. What blows my mind is that Hurring decided to return to New Zealand to renew a passport… and that’s how she got nabbed.

Amazing.

Then I wonder… what would I do if $7 million just appeared in my account? What would you do?

{ 30 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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30 Responses to “Your Take: What Would You Do With a $7 Million Bank Error?”

  1. Scott says:

    Seriously? You could buy your kid a really, really nice new fake passport for next to nothing, relatively speaking when you compare it to $10M NZD and how much trouble you’re already in. Sounds to me like she wanted to get caught.

  2. Don says:

    I would deposit the money in an interest bearing account, keep it until my statment arrived then notify the bank of the error and return the principal and keep the interest earned. If played correctly, the interest on 10 million at 2% compounded would be 202,007.81 per year, If it took a couple of months before notifying the Bank, the borrower would have close to 1/4 of his original request of 100K. don’t know if that is legal or not but may be worth the effort.

    • govenar says:

      Sounds like a good idea, except in this case it was a line of credit, and you’d probably be paying more interest than you’re getting. (And these days it’s hard to get 2%)

      • mannymacho says:

        And I’m pretty sure the bank would go ahead and take back the interest along with the principal.

    • Glaisne says:

      2%? Where are you getting 2%? The best CD rates are maybe 1.5% for 60months and regular old interest bearing accounts are around 0.2 to 0.5% though you sometimes get around 0.9 to 1.0% for higher balances. I guess that would apply in this case! Hardly seems worth it though.

  3. David S says:

    I don’t know if I would do anything really. I would probably just hold it in the account until the bank fixed the error. Hopefully it is in an interest bearing account because even at .5% that is $2916 a month in interest. (2 months and you have the max IRA contribution, 5 months and you have your 401k contribution)

    The thing was this was a line of credit NOT a savings account. If the bank gave me a $7M LoC I would most likely never use it (but it would definitely help my Available Credit to Used Credit Ratio) :)

  4. Christian L. says:

    Jim,
    You’d think with that money they could have afforded a fake passport, right?

    I wouldn’t tempt fate like Gao did. I’d probably talk to the bank and try to cajole them into bumping my line of credit a bit higher. I mean, if they could have afforded NZ$10 million, why not give me NZ$200,000? Ha, I know it doesn’t work that way, but it’d be worth a shot.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  5. stephen says:

    Well, citibank has made a $40 bank error in my favor (they double-posted a $40 deposit I made at an ATM. I keep the money in the checking account. It’s been almost a year, I think, so at some point I may just sweep it into savings. But for now, it’s a small cushion.

    I could use a LOC now, but as a mistakenly-given to me one, no. Because we all know they are going to catch those big ones. And there’s no free lunch.

  6. I would just inform the bank that they made an error – although I love the idea of running with it like Keyser Soze to some far off country.

    The only people who get to create money out of thin air by adding zeros to an electronic bank account is the Federal Reserve – although it is legal for them.

  7. freeby50 says:

    If I found a bank error of any kind I would report it. Its tempting to look at it like free money but its not your money and you have no claim on it. If the bank accidentally makes errors in their favor I expect them to fix it and give me my money back, and its only fair for me to help fix errors in my favor.

    I wouldn’t flee the country and then RETURN to the scene of the crime like that bozo did.

  8. Dj Ham says:

    My mother actually had an equivalent of $900,000 wired to her account in error instead of a corporate account. She immediately reported it, because she knew the money wasnt hers, and banks would find out their mistake sooner or later. Of course she is a Corporate executive for a small company, so she knew she couldnt make a naive decision like a novice would.

  9. eric says:

    Just last week I deposited a $1,100 check in the ATM after hours and the ATM read it as 11 million dollars. I kid you not…I thought about it for half a nano second LOL.

  10. I’d freak out about how much interested I’d have to pay if I took out that whole line of credit! I wouldn’t do what he did though… that’s insane. I’d report it most likely.

  11. Kathryn says:

    I would inform them an only borrow up to what I agreed upon.

  12. Jim M says:

    I would let it ride until the bank caught the error .

  13. Kim says:

    I would notify the bank about the error. Even though, I do need the money to pay the bills but I would be scared to keep that enormous amount. Also, it’s not mines.

  14. Ray says:

    I’d seriously think about it, I can never live in US again, but at the same time I can live a fantastic life anywhere else.

    I wonder if there is there a stature of limitations for these things? What would have happened, had he left it alone and X years later took it all.

  15. Cal says:

    Well, this is a quandry..
    I have roughly $7,000,000 sitting in an account….And thinking about how I could live somewhere else with a fantastic life….. And never having to come back to my home country…

    Well I have always wanted to see the world….

    And $7,000,000 would buy a lot of whatever they serve in the country I go to…

  16. echidnina says:

    Even being unthinkably rich, who would want to spend the rest of their life on the run?

  17. This is a line of credit. The first thing I’d do is check what the bank is charging for points and interest. If they’re charging based on their error (which would surprise me not one whit) I’d create a bit of a stink and get the points waived and the interest rate reduced. But I wouldn’t touch the line. Repaying debt sucks.

  18. Gao was really short-sighted. Although being dishonest may have seemed like a good idea at first, it certainly didn’t pay off in the end. He regrets it now, I’m sure. Honesty is the best policy.

    The bank probably now triple checks line of credit transactions to avoid costly errors like that one.

  19. I would give it back. Seriously. Other people worked for money the bank ‘lost’.

    • Shirley says:

      My mother’s philosophy was always, “If it’s not yours, don’t touch it unless invited to do so. If you can’t earn it, you don’t need it.”

      I’m thankful to have grown up with that solidly in mind.

  20. Oh boy, I would be terrified to do anything with it. I would report it immediately. The fugitive life is not for me.

  21. bloodbath says:

    I would run too and never go back for any reason.
    With that much money I can buy invisibility

  22. Mike says:

    Figures the girlfriend would bring him down.

  23. DMoney says:

    I get how everyone says “do the right thing”, but honestly, banks rob us blind all the time, so screw’em. I don’t know exactly what I’d do, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t think of some escape plan w/ the money.


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