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Another bank has been caught in a scandal, and for those who have accounts with Wells Fargo, you may already be painfully aware of the story. According to various reports, Wells Fargo bank employees were found to have opened more than 2 million accounts in customer’s names—without customer’s consent—in order to rack up banking fees and get bonuses. The banking and financial services holding company agreed last Thursday to pay $185 million in fines.
Despite taking out full-ads in newspapers to apologize to the public, and agreeing to pay the $185 million in penalties, Wells Fargo has refused to admit any wrongdoing, in legal terms. The Federal Reserve, however, has said the banking industry, in general, has not been doing enough to prevent unethical behavior.
A good example would be a clever little scam the former Washington Mutual Bank used to partake in, in which they would open savings accounts in customers names—without the customer’s consent—and then transfer funds from the customer’s checking account to a savings account. Customer’s would then unknowingly overdraw their checking accounts, and for every transaction that took place while overdrawn, the bank would charge a $36 overdraft charge, which they would later refuse to wave, despite the whole occurrence being their so-called “mistake.” Scams such as this can bleed hundreds of dollars from individual customers, earning the bank obscene profits.
It’s safe to say a fair majority of our readers—no matter which financial institution you bank through—has, or will have, experiences such as this. They’re extremely commonplace. In a statement from Federal Gov. Daniel Tarullo:
“What I have seen is that too many banks, instead of putting in place a comprehensive system for assuring that all their employees understand what is legal and ethical across the board, only respond when there is a particular problem.”
Since the 2008 financial crisis, numerous banks have paid billions of dollars in fines for the various scams they incorporate into their business practices—scams that have actually gone on for years. This particular case with Wells Fargo has apparently raised new questions “about whether federal authorities have done enough to detect and punish bad behavior.” (Spoiler alert: they haven’t.)
5300 employees have been dismissed, some because they deserved it, some because they’ve been thrown-under-the-bus, and some were fired for refusing to take part in the scam in the first place. Many of the latter-mentioned employees have filed lawsuits against Wells Fargo, too. In a statement from bank analyst for Rafferty Capital Markets, Richard Bove:
“If you fire 5300 people because they’ve opened 2 million accounts inappropriately, then there’s something wrong with the institution.”
The problem started higher up-the-line at Wells Fargo, on the Executive level, but authorities have only been able to charge lower-level employees with fraud or theft. Legal experts claim that the potential for criminal charges on higher-level employees is probably limited, as direct links to senior executives are difficult to obtain (and for good reason: they know how to cover their asses).
Wells Fargo has been accused by employees of creating impossible quotas to fill, and then encouraging employees to “cross-sell” already existing customers with additional services, such as opening credit cards in their name, and letting the fees rack up. This conduct in Wells Fargo dates back to at least 2011, “and involved more than 1.5 million checking and savings accounts and about 500000 credit-card accounts, with many customers getting hit with unexpected fees, according to federal officials.”
Representatives for the bank of course deny the accusations made by employees, basically insinuating that 5300 Wells Fargo employees from various bank branches decided on their own to secretly open illegal accounts, in an effort to reach unrealistic quotas. As the Daily News so eloquently put it:
“Keep it up, boys!
“Keep stealing and issuing phony acts of contrition while filling the prisons with the great unwashed.
“Keep running your City-owned vehicles into cars stopped at traffic lights at 1:30am, like City Councilman Jose Huizar did, and keep paying your $150,000 settlements with public funds.
“Keep sexually harassing employees like Roger Ailes did at FOX News and let your employer write the $20 million settlement check.
“Keep deleting 33000 emails from your private server while Secretary of State…
“Crash the US housing market and send exactly one banker to jail.”
This is the world we live in. This is what we allow to continue.
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