Class Action Suit Filed In California Over Wells Fargo’s Alleged Customer Account Abuses

Image courtesy of (Mike Mozart)

A lawsuit filed earlier this month by the city of Los Angeles accuses Wells Fargo of pushing employees to engage in fraudulent conduct with regard to consumer accounts in order to meet the bank’s sales quotas. Now, one of those customers has filed his own lawsuit against the San Francisco-based bank alleging the same misconduct deceived and defrauded consumers across the country.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the new lawsuit, filed by a California man on behalf of all wronged Wells Fargo customers, claims the bank’s unfair practices created undue hardships and financial stress to clients.

The man claims, among other things, that bank employees opened at least 7 accounts in his name without permission and that he was routinely hounded by bill collectors to pay fees on those accounts – both issues detailed in Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s original complaint.

The city claims in its lawsuit filed two weeks ago that Wells Fargo’s high-pressure sales culture encouraged employees to misuse customer information to open unwanted accounts and then charge those accounts fees – essentially creating a “fee generating machine.”

Other harmful practices reportedly backed by the bank – and detailed in the city’s suit – include allegations that employees at the bank hid fees, refused to close accounts on request and forged signatures in order to meet quotas set forth by the bank.

As for the new class action suit, the California man says he – and other consumers – were victims of nearly all of the deceptions described in the city’s case, including: employees withdrawing money from customers authorized accounts to pay for the fees assessed by Wells Fargo on unauthorized accounts; placing customers into collections when fees and other debts accumulated in the unauthorized accounts; and placing negative information in credit reports when the unauthorized fees went unpaid.

The man says he began banking with Wells Fargo in 2011 and soon noticed “some anomalies, such as unwanted fees,” the L.A. Times reports.

Two years after opening just one checking and one savings account, the man visited a local branch to discuss an unauthorized charge. At that time he learned that seven unauthorized accounts had been opened in his name, using a signature that was not his, the suit states.

The new complaint, which seeks restitution and damages, asserts that the bank’s alleged abuses “caused significant stress to, and hardship and financial losses for, its customers.”

Statements from Wells Fargo employees included in the suit reportedly confirm some of the company’s purportedly deceptive tactics.

In one account, a current employee claims to have witnessed other bank employees opening unauthorized accounts on a “nearly daily basis,” the L.A. Times reports.

According to the suit, the opening of such accounts was enabled by a database called ClientTrack that supposedly made sensitive customer information accessible to bank employees across the country.

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo challenged that point, saying the bank does not “have a system that matches the description in the complaint. And all our systems are designed to comply with applicable laws, including privacy laws.”

Suit seeks damages for all victims of alleged Wells Fargo customer abuses [The Los Angeles Times]

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