Ex Wells Fargo Worker: I Was Told to 'Club the Baby Seals'
Bank accused of overcharging mom-and-pop shops
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2017 9:03 AM CDT
Commuters walk by a Wells Fargo ATM location at New York's Penn Station.   (AP Photo/Swayne B. Hall, File)

(Newser) – Wells Fargo's attempt to regain trust with customers may not be helped by this claim: Days after admitting it signed 570,000 customers up for auto insurance they didn't need—leading to ruined credit scores and repossessions—the bank is now accused of targeting mom-and-pop shops in a deliberate, years-long overcharging scheme related to the processing of credit-card transactions. A former employee of Wells Fargo Merchant Services, which is 40% controlled by First Data, tells CNNMoney he was instructed to "go out and club the baby seals: mom-pop-shops that had no legal support" while working for the business between 2011 and 2013. A lawsuit claims the scheme involved getting small business owners to sign a 63-page merchant agreement that used "deceptive language" to hide "massive early termination fees."

"God would have had a hard time" escaping the contract, the former employee says. One of the plaintiffs in the suit, a business owner in North Carolina, says he was charged $500 to terminate the contract after being hit with monthly fees of $20 to $35. Those fees were the result of not meeting a minimum number of credit card transactions per month, though the account holder says Wells Fargo told him there would be no such fees. The bank has denied the claims in the suit filed in US District Court. It adds its "negotiated pricing terms are fair and were administrated appropriately." Nevertheless, a "shake-up" of Wells Fargo's board is coming, with Chairman Stephen Sanger likely to step down in the coming months, reports the Wall Street Journal.

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