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September 26, 2009

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Irate bank customer seeks payout of cosmic scale

DALTON Chiscolm is unhappy about the customer service at his bank -- really unhappy.

In August he sued Bank of America, the largest United States bank, and its board, demanding that "1,784 billion, trillion dollars" be deposited into his account the next day. His writ also demanded an additional US$200,164,000.

Attempts to reach Chiscolm were unsuccessful. A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment.

"Incomprehensible," US District Judge Denny Chin said in a brief order released in Manhattan federal court. "He seems to be complaining that he placed a series of calls to the bank in New York and received inconsistent information from a 'Spanish woman'," the judge wrote.

"He apparently alleges that checks have been rejected because of incomplete routing numbers."

Chin has experience with big numbers. He sentenced Bernard Madoff to a 150-year prison sentence for a US$65 billion Ponzi scheme.

Bank of America Corp faces real legal problems, including New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's threat to sue its chief executive and a judge's embarrassing rejection of a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yet the money Chiscolm wants could dwarf all the bank's other problems. It's larger than a sextillion dollars, or a 1 followed by 21 zeros. Chiscolm's request is equivalent to 1 followed by 22 digits. The sum dwarfs the world's 2008 gross domestic product of US$60 trillion, as estimated by the World Bank.

"If he thinks Bank of America has branches on every planet in the cosmos, then it might start to make some sense," said Sylvain Cappell, New York University's Silver Professor at the Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

Judge Chin gave Chiscolm until October 23 to better explain himself, or case dismissed.


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