The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 25, 2014

Banks sue Target over data breach

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A group of southern Minnesota banks has sued suing Target Corp., alleging damages from the retailer's data breach late last year.

The five banks are First Farmers & Merchants banks. The lawsuit was filed Saturday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

The complaint doesn't specify a damage amount but says the banks have had to refund fraudulent charges, close and reopen checking and savings accounts and cancel and reissue credit and debit cards.

"The way that this has happened, it's the banks whose exposure is greatest here," said Garrett Blanchfield, a St. Paul lawyer representing the local banks. "We think the Minnesota laws provide a sound basis for us."

The banks are in Luverne, Fairmont, Brownsdale, Grand Meadow and Cannon Falls, the Star Tribune reported.

The sister banks, which make a lot of agricultural loans, together have assets of about $657 million and employ about 166 people, government filings show. The banks are subsidiaries of Minneapolis-based 215 Holding Co. and declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A Target spokeswoman told the newspaper the Minneapolis-based retailer does not comment on litigation.

Some attorneys say the lawsuit could be the first test of Minnesota's "Plastic Card Security Act." The 2007 law requires a merchant that improperly holds payment card data and doesn't adequately protect it to reimburse financial institutions for any losses from a breach.

As of February, banks and credit unions nationally estimated they've spent more than $200 million replacing credit and debit cards whose data were snatched in the attack on Target's computer system.

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