"I assumed they were sending me some sort of end-of-the-year profit sharing," Cassel said.
He deposited the check in his bank account (BofA, not Wells) and that was that. And then a whole year went by.
That wasn't the end
And then, just the other day, Cassel received a letter from Wells Fargo saying that the $262 had been sent to him in error and that the bank wants its money back. That raised an interesting question (several actually).
"Do I have to give it back?" Cassel wanted to know. "Even if it's their mistake? Isn't there a statute of limitations or something?"
The answers: Yes, yes and, surprisingly, yes.
"If he was truly paid in error, he needs to pay it back," said Fred Keeperman, a Moraga attorney who specializes in debt collection.
But there is a statute of limitations on this sort of thing, he said, and in most cases that's four years. So Wells Fargo is still within its rights in demanding the money back 12 months later.
The bank agrees.
"If the assets of a plan are distributed incorrectly, for whatever reason, fiduciaries have an obligation under federal law to try to collect those assets and have them returned to the plan," said Susan Stanley, a Wells spokeswoman.
But wait, as they say, there's more:
Cassel has just received another letter from Wells, this time stating that "not all (retirement plan) participants who received a letter should have received a letter." After further review, the bank has decided that Cassel doesn't have to send the money back after all.
"Wells Fargo Retirement Solutions is truly sorry for any inconvenience the earlier letter may have caused," the bank said.
That's OK. Nobody's perfect.