Wells Fargo has been exposed for abusing its customers by opening approximately 2 million accounts and credit cards for depositors who did not ask for them and did not know about them. Wells Fargo employees went so far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said. You may have been paying bank fees on accounts you didn’t even sign up for. If a credit card was opened without you knowing about it, your credit score could have been affected.
Wells Fargo has been conducting these fraudulent acts since at least 2011, and the search is being expanded to include 2009 and 2010 to identify additional potential fraudulent acts. Wells Fargo’s fraud is being called “the most egregious fraud we’ve seen since the foreclosure crisis” by Rep. Maxine Waters, the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. Wells Fargo’s chair and CEO, John Stumpf is being called on to resign and return the salary and bonuses he wrongfully was awarded through this scandal. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has called on the Justice Department to launch a criminal prosecution of Stumpf.
In addition to individuals, Wells Fargo’s fraudulent sales practices extends to thousands of small business owners. It has been reported that approximately 10,000 small business accounts have been subject to improper practices. A probe was launched on September 20 by U.S. Senator David Vitter, chair of the U.S. Senate’s small business committee.
For small businesses, an ex-Wells Fargo business banker said employees were required to sell products to small business customers in packages of three – regardless of whether the customer needed the products. These packages typically included accounts for checking, credit card processing and payroll, and were often linked to additional savings accounts. Bankers also added business credit cards and were pressured to push business liability policies. Wells Fargo said the bank since discontinued those packages.
Although Wells Fargo set unrealistic internal sales targets for its employees, the bank initially blamed this scandal on these low-level employees and fired about 5,300 employees, blaming them for improperly opening the accounts. A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of former employees who were fired for refusing to create fake accounts to achieve sales quotas. Wells Fargo suspended the quota requirements on October 1, 2016.
As a result of this scandal, to date, Wells Fargo has been fined with the largest penalty since the CFPB was founded in 2011 and it has agreed to pay $185 million in fines, along with $5 million to refund customers.
If customers aren’t sure whether they were affected by having multiple accounts opened in their name, or a credit card opened in their name without permission, they can look at their online account to see what accounts and cards are open; any accounts and cards that were opened, with or without the customer’s permission, may be listed there. Customers should also visit a Wells Fargo branch in person to obtain the information they are seeking. In some cases, Wells Fargo has sent out notification letters to customers or made credits to customer accounts. These should appear on your statement(s). However, at the time the credit appeared on your statement, it may have been unclear what exactly the credit was for.
If you have questions about the Wells Fargo scandal and believe you may have been affected by Wells Fargo’s fraudulent acts, contact Paoli Law Firm to discuss your potential claim today. Call 406-542-3330.