LA Sues Illegal 'Fee Machine' Wells Fargo

Employees used unlawful tactics to boost sales: lawsuit
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2015 6:39 AM CDT
LA Sues Illegal 'Fee Machine' Wells Fargo
This July 14, 2014 photo shows Wells Fargo offices in Oakland, Calif. Wells Fargo reports quarterly earnings on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015.   (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The city of Los Angeles is suing Wells Fargo, claiming the California-based bank pushed employees to engage "in unfair, unlawful, and fraudulent conduct" to hit sales quotas. The suit notes bank employees opened unauthorized accounts for customers, failed to close them when asked, and applied phony fees that hurt customers' credit. The bank says the issues stem from a few bad eggs, who have been disciplined or fired. But "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," the suit alleges, per the Los Angeles Times.

The suit also claims bank employees robbed customer accounts of money that was used to pay fees on accounts they never wanted, while the bank placed customers in collections and added "derogatory information" to credit reports, Courthouse News reports. The lawsuit follows a 2013 Times investigation which described Wells Fargo employees forging customers' signatures to open unwanted accounts. In new interviews, a former employee says false accounts were opened "daily," while a customer describes "a three-year battle" with the bank after his three accounts multiplied to 10. Per the suit: "Wells Fargo has generated a virtual fee-generating machine, through which its customers are harmed, its employees take the blame, and Wells Fargo reaps the profit." LA hopes to put an end to the practices, with up to a $2,500 fine for each violation, plus refunds for customers. (More Wells Fargo stories.)

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