Amex suspends director during foreign-exchange pricing probe

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A director in the foreign-exchange department of American Express has been suspended, as the card brand continues to investigate pricing practices in that division of the company.

Amex informed employees in the foreign-exchange sector last month that director Taylor Simonin was suspended, according to unnamed sources cited in a Wall Street Journal report.

Simonin oversaw account development staff who help foreign-exchange salespeople and assist clients with currency conversions, the sources said. The Journal noted that current and former employees provided information last summer in reporting that Amex’s foreign-exchange international payments department routinely increased currency-conversion rates without notifying customers, in order to boost revenue and employee commissions. The practice occurred until early 2018 and dated to at least 2004, current and former employees told the Journal.

While declining to comment specifically about what actions may have stirred suspicions about Simonian — and, ultimately, his suspension — Amex spokeswoman Marina Norville explained to PaymentsSource that the cross-border payment service primarily targets midsize business clients.

"This product is different than the FX Conversion fees on many of our card products and is also unrelated to our core issuing and networking businesses," Norville said, citing a company statement. "We have ongoing training and compliance programs that focus on customer service practices, however, we take the allegations seriously."

Norville supplied portions of an Amex regulatory filing in October confirming the company had received investigative subpoenas from the civil and criminal divisions of the Justice Department and inquiries from the Federal Reserve, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the OCC and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

In the filing, Amex said it doesn’t believe “this matter will have a material adverse impact on our operations or results.”

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