Banking Glitch Gives Student $9.9 Million
Thu Mar 6, 7:58 AM ET
PRINCETON, N.J. - An online banking glitch gave a Princeton University student access to university accounts totaling $9.9 million when he tried to access a student publication's account.
Freshman Ira Leeds didn't take any money.
Leeds, financial manager for The Princeton Tory, was attempting to access the conservative magazine's account with PNC Bank on Friday when he accessed all 15 of the University's accounts, which totaled just over $9.9 million.
It was his first time trying to access the account online.
"We buy a lot of paper and stamps and envelopes, sometimes pizza for meetings and so forth. It helped to have the online access so I could track the activity on our debit cards as they were being used," he said.
Leeds alerted PNC Bank officials that night and The Tory sent e-mails to university President Shirley Tilghman and Provost Amy Gutmann about the error.
It turned out that the magazine's online log-on number is identical to the university's, because it is the same as Princeton's federal taxpayer identification number.
Bank spokesman Joe Whall wouldn't say whether Leeds or anyone at The Tory could have withdrawn funds from the university accounts if they had tried.
"The funds are absolutely safe. No transactions were made," he said.
Princeton officials were looking for answers from the bank.
"We're not happy," said spokeswoman Lauren Robinson-Brown. "The bank has notified us that they will immediately block all university accounts from being accessed via their Web product."