From Al-Jazeera America:
Let us open an account for you, or ten.
Wells Fargo employees used customers' private information to open unwanted checking accounts and credit cards in their names, resulting in unexpected fees and damaged credit scores, the city of Los Angeles claimed in a lawsuit filed late Monday.
The civil complaint says the largest U.S. mortgage lender encouraged employees to engage in "unfair, unlawful and fraudulent conduct" through a pervasive culture of high-pressure sales, the Los Angeles Times reported.
They already have all of the money. They have $1,480,000,000,000.00 of it at least.
I wrote out the "zeros" because that's how many zeros there are in how much Wells Fargo is worth. The lawsuit's stipulation that Wells Fargo's sales culture is to blame for the fraud has investigative merit behind it.
To meet quotas, employees have opened unneeded accounts for customers, ordered credit cards without customers' permission and forged client signatures on paperwork. Some employees begged family members to open ghost accounts.
These conclusions emerge from a review of internal bank documents and court records, and from interviews with 28 former and seven current Wells Fargo employees who worked at bank branches in nine states, including California.
For their part, Wells Fargo's defense is these bank employees were bad apples. Black sheep. Aberrations.
The city's investigation, however, found only token efforts by Wells to prevent customer abuses.
“On the rare occasions when Wells Fargo did take action against its employees for unethical sales conduct, Wells Fargo further victimized its customers by failing to inform them of the breaches, refund fees they were owed, or otherwise remedy the injuries that Wells Fargo and its bankers have caused,” according to the suit.
[bold my emphasis]
That's a pretty soft touch with what seems to be criminal behavior. Banks never seem to "spare the rod" when dealing with customers. Not in my experience at least. The lawsuit is looking for penalties on all violations as well as restitution to people victimized by the bankers—and these customers were victimized.
In addition to charging fees on unwanted accounts, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo harmed customers by placing them into collections based on unauthorized withdrawals and reported damaging information on their credit reports when unwarranted fees went unpaid, the suit alleges.
This kind of "anything goes" for sales environment is not simply a Wells Fargo issue but the repercussions to people's financial lives is terrible—and Wells Fargo works in the business of people's financial lives.