Julie Miller was working in Pennsylvania for Wachovia when Wells Fargo took over the Charlotte bank in 2008 and began changing more than the name on its branches.
Miller said she watched with dismay as Wells Fargo increased her branch’s sales goals and lowered bonuses for meeting the new targets. The changes took place around 2011, when her branch converted to the Wells Fargo name, she said.
“It became a living nightmare,” said Miller, 52, who no longer works for Wells Fargo. “They almost doubled our goals and decreased our incentive pay. It drove me to drink.”
Miller said her health began deteriorating as she tried to meet daily requirements that her branch sell 42 products, like mortgages and lines of credit, and open seven checking accounts.
That’s when she also started noticing Wells Fargo customers complaining they were being signed up for products they never asked for.
“I’d have seniors come in with their kids and say, ‘Why does my mom have five checking accounts?’” Miller recalled. “Because some banker needed the credit and opened up five checking accounts for them.”
Former employees tell CNNMoney that they felt incredible demands from managers to meet sales quotas. The same managers turned a blind eye when ethical and even legal lines were crossed.
“I had managers in my face yelling at me,” Sabrina Bertrand, who worked as a licensed personal banker for Wells Fargo in Houston in 2013, told CNNMoney. “They wanted you to open up dual checking accounts for people that couldn’t even manage their original checking account.”
Currently a middle school teacher, Bertrand said she believes the sales targets were set by managers who were higher up: “The sales pressure from management was unbearable.”
The pressure cooker environment is also described in a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles against Wells Fargo in May 2015. The lawsuit says that Wells Fargo’s district managers discussed daily sales for each branch and employee “four times a day, at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm.”
Anthony Try, who worked at Wells Fargo’s branches in San Francisco and San Diego as a personal banker and sales representative, told CNNMoney that he believes “management was fully aware of this,” but his bosses deliberately “turned a blind eye.”
Try, who quit in 2013 because he no longer believed in what he was doing, thinks the illegal activity was systemic.
“It was ingrained in the culture for a long time,” he said.
Try, currently a musician and manager, said he did not open unauthorized accounts. However, he did open accounts for friends and family — with their permission — in order to meet the incredible demands from managers.
“There would be days where we would open five checking accounts for friends and family just to go home early,” he said.