Your bank is one of the most relied upon service providers. People must have faith in the place they choose to store their finances. Recent incidents by Wells Fargo employees resulting in almost 6,000 employee terminations and hundreds of millions in fines have once again shaken public trust to the very core. Details of the employee fraud are outlined in this article by Maggie McGrath of Forbes.
Wells Fargo Fined $185 Million For Opening Accounts Without Customers’ Knowledge
In 2015, the city of Los Angeles sued Wells Fargo for unethical customer conduct, accusing the bank of secretly opening unauthorized accounts that then accrued bogus fees. One year later, Wells is paying for this behavior: the bank announced Thursday that it has reached settlements with city and federal officials totaling nearly $200 million.
Wells Fargo said Thursday that it has reached agreements with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Los Angeles attorney office over allegations that it, among other improper activities, opened deposit accounts and transferred funds without customers’ consent. The bank will pay a total of $185 million in fines, plus another $5 million in what it is calling “customer remediation.”
A consent decree released by the CFPB Thursday reveals the lengths to which thousands of Wells employees went in order to meet sales quotas. The CFPB investigation determined that, going back to “at least” 2011, Wells opened deposit accounts for existing customers without their knowledge or consent and proceeded to transfer money to those accounts from their other accounts; submitted credit card applications in customers’ names, also without their knowledge or consent; enrolled people in online banking services they did not ask for, in some cases using email addresses that the customers themselves did not create; and ordered and activated debit cards — and PIN numbers — using consumers’ information without their knowledge or approval.
The CFPB said that its analysis found that Wells employees opened 1,534,280 unauthorized deposit accounts, 85,000 of which accrued a total of $2 million in fees. On the credit card side of things, the CFPB said its analysis unearthed 565,443 unauthorized credit card account applications — submitted on behalf of clients, without their knowledge, by Wells employees — 14,000 of which accrued $403,145 in fees.
It’s a rather stunning breach of consumer trust, and one that the CFPB says was driven by an “incentive-compensation program that made it possible for its employees to pursue underhanded sales practices.” In prepared comments delivered Thursday, CFPB director Richard Cordray was blunt, slamming these employees for gaming the system and hurting customers in exchange for enriching themselves. “It is quite clear that these are unfair and abusive practices under federal law,” he said.