The Navajo Nation announced Tuesday that it is suing Wells Fargo for allegedly engaging in predatory and unlawful banking practices that targeted and harmed tribal members. In a statement, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the tribe's lawyer has been directed to seek restitution, damages, and civil penalties based on Wells Fargo's alleged violations of federal, state, and tribal law, the AP reports. The tribe alleges employees at Wells Fargo branches on the vast reservation "routinely misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts and obtained debit and credit cards without customers' consent." They also allege Navajo elders "were purposely confused and deceived into purchasing products to help employees meet banking quotas."
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in New Mexico, said "since at least 2009 and continuing through 2016, Wells Fargo employees at branches on the Navajo Nation routinely opened unauthorized savings and credit accounts, misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts, obtained debit cards without customers' consent, and enrolled customers in online banking without proper consent." Wells Fargo has five bank branches across the Navajo Nation—which covers more than 27,000 square miles over portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico—plus 12 other branches within a 30-minute drive of the reservation. Wells Fargo was fined last year after bank employees opened millions of fake accounts without customers' knowledge.