Deceit, thy name is Wells Fargo.
The bad behavior of mega-bank Wells Fargo has hugely negative effects on vast swaths of people. With upwards of 70 million customers, when Wells Fargo screws its customers over, it screws over a lot of people!.
We have now learned this lesson, oh, umpteen times with Wells Fargo.
Having previously been busted opening unauthorized checking accounts for its customers without their knowledge, it was revealed two weeks ago that the bank also spent years employing its bag of dirty tricks on people taking out car loans. An internal report sent to Wells Fargo executives shows that more than 800,000 customers ended up with insurance they didn’t want or need between 2012 and late 2016.
Wells Fargo’s own investigators concluded that the insurance scheme resulted in nearly 300,000 customers having delinquent accounts as Wells drained them of money they didn’t have. On top of that, the consultants determined that nearly 25,000 wrongful vehicle repossessions occurred, with active duty service-members among the victims.
When the American public learned in 2016 that Wells was creating millions of fake accounts in consumers’ names, it opened our eyes to how sleazy this bank could be. The fake accounts brought along unexpected fees that damaged credit scores for years on end. Regulators eventually forced the bank to pay hundreds of millions in damages and restitution.
On top of all this, Wells Fargo has been abusing those who have given up the most for our country: veterans.
In the early 2000s, Wells charged veterans hidden fees when refinancing their mortgages, and lied to the federal government about doing so. The bank was sued for this in 2006, and is now doing a curious thing where it denies any wrongdoing while agreeing to pay $108 million to make the case go away. Wells also settled a separate but related $10 million class-action lawsuit from veterans in 2011.
You’d think that Wells would know to clean up its act in the wake of all this, but you’d be wrong.
Wells Fargo has been attempting to downplay their misbehavior in recent weeks. Contesting some details from the report, the bank put out a press release said that 570,000 customers “may have been impacted”, and that the scheme “could have contributed” to 20,000 wrongful repossessions instead of 25,000. That makes it ok?!
In a recent interview, Wells Fargo’s Head of Consumer Lending spoke about the situation and said that they had “made the right business decisions” by stopping with this fraudulent practice. “Business decisions!” That one tiny phrase reveals a mindset exemplifying everything wrong with Wells Fargo and the big Wall Street banks in our country.
“Business decision”? Is that honestly how they see their obligation to right this kind of wrong? Not rebuilding trust with their betrayed consumers, not making amends with the defrauded, but a “business decision”? It looks like they still don’t get it at Wells Fargo.
First it was the fake accounts, then it was forcing the victims of that scheme into arbitration, which deprived them of their day in court. Then it was the car insurance scheme where Wells caused innocent Americans to lose their cars by secretly charging them for car insurance. And all the while Wells has been abusing veterans who wanted nothing more than financial security and safe homeownership?
As Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), said, it’s just “one thing after another” from Wells Fargo. And throughout all of this, Wells and its allies in Congress have been demanding less regulation. Better to spend our time wondering: What creative fraud are we going to read about next?