The Fight Against Crime

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The Fight Against Crime

The Fight Against Crime

An even more serious threat faced American Express in the summer of 1949. A gang suddenly began passing counterfeit Travellers Cheques in sever, large American cities. These Cheques were different from those which had appeared in Europe in 1947. The Inspectors Department and the F.B.I. tore into action so fast that the attempts were stopped short in three days. The Secret Service aided in locating the counterfeiters' plant in New York and in identifying the engraver and printer, who in the meantime had been arrested on another counterfeiting charge. Forty-two members of the ring were arrested as a result of the investigation. The ring was broken up, and while the case has not been closed, prison terms ranging up to twenty years already have been meted out. American Express redeemed all the counterfeit Cheques which had been innocently accepted and paid. President Reed, in explaining this policy to his stockholders, said, "While we are not legally obligated to pay such instruments to persons innocently defrauded we have always considered that it is in the best interests of the business to do so, as to refuse payment to such persons . . . would undermine public confidence in the acceptability of our paper."

Lesser crooks, the ordinary run-of-the-mill burglars, pickpockets, and such, are so convinced of the efficiency of the Inspectors Department, they won't even keep questionable Travellers Cheques in their possession. Nine times out of ten, when the Travellers Cheques are reported missing in a robbery, they are returned to the nearest office of the company in desperate haste to forestall any action by Bulger's department.

In addition to protecting the company's financial paper, detectives of the Inspectors Department are watchful to guard Travellers who voyage under the aegis of American Express against the wiles of confidence men and the dangers of robbery. "We throw protection around the holders of our Travellers Cheques," they say.

During the coronation of King George VI in 1937, light-fingered and nimble-brained crooks converged on London from all over the world. American Express sent some of its best inspectors, who were personally acquainted with the leading figures of the nether world, to counter this offensive. The favoured method of operation was to watch the shady characters and step in just ahead of them.

When this failed to work, other means were employed. Once a distressed minister of the Gospel rushed into the London office at 6 Haymarket and announced that his pocket had been picked while walking down Piccadilly. "My Travellers Cheques were stolen," he moaned. "It's all the money I have to get me home."

Charley Collins, special agent for American Express in London, reassured him. Come in tomorrow morning at ten," he said confidently. "I'll have your Cheques."


For more on Revised Model Business Corporation Act

What next? Foreign Exchange

Foreign Exchange

Foreign Exchange is very important to the Remittance business as well as to other foreign operations of the company. It is now conducted in impressive offices, but in the early 1900s, when the tide of immigrants was swirling over Ellis Island, it had one picturesque aspect.

Every morning Frederick P. Small, who was then in charge of this operation, would go to the Ellis Island ferry with an assistant. An American Express money wagon - a small one-horse express wagon caged in by stout wire netting - would meet him at the pier with a load of specie. Fred Small and his assistant would load the bags of gold and silver on a handcart and take them over on the ferry. On Ellis Island they set up shop behind wooden tables, exchanging American money for the currencies of all the countries of Europe at the standard rates of exchange.

In order to protect its millions of patrons who carry its Travellers Cheques, the company maintains the Inspectors Department,... see: Foreign Exchange


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