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Federal Investigators Probing AmEx Card Sales Practices

Federal investigators are probing business-card sales practices at American Express Co., according to people familiar with the matter.

The inspectors general offices of the Treasury Department, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Federal Reserve are investigating whether AmEx used aggressive and misleading sales tactics to sell cards to business owners and whether customers were harmed, the people said. They are also examining whether specific employees contributed to the alleged behavior and if higher-level employees supported it, some of the people said.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is also investigating business-card sales practices at AmEx, according to people familiar with the matter.

More than a dozen current and former AmEx employees previously told The Wall Street Journal that some salespeople strong-armed or misled small-business owners into signing up for cards to boost sales numbers. Some salespeople misrepresented card rewards and fees, or issued cards that customers hadn’t sought, they said. An AmEx spokesman said at the time that the company had found only a very small number of problems, which were resolved “promptly and appropriately,” including through disciplinary action.

“We have robust compliance policies and controls in place, and do not tolerate misconduct,” an AmEx spokeswoman said this week.

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