Former bank tellers and angry customers. Democrats and Republicans in Congress. State treasurers in California and Illinois. Even Hillary Clinton. They have all lambasted Wells Fargo in recent weeks over the phony accounts scandal.
Now, a wealthy 80-year-old businessman and philanthropist from Texas is taking aim at the besieged bank.
Lacy Harber, who owns real estate in Las Vegas and numerous small banks and marinas, took out advertisements in four large newspapers on Thursday — including The New York Times — denouncing Wells Fargo.
Mr. Harber’s ad describes itself as an “open letter to the Senate Banking Committee, House Financial Services Committee, Wells Fargo board of directors and the American public.”
It goes on to assert: “The recent disclosures about Wells Fargo are only the tip of the iceberg.”
In an interview, Mr. Harber said his complaint with Wells Fargo centers on its investment brokers. He said that on Aug. 24, 2015, as the stock market dropped precipitously, he placed orders for about $34.8 million worth of stocks through his brokers at Wells Fargo Advisors.
Working from his kitchen counter at home in North Texas, Mr. Harber said he went on the buying spree to take advantage of the dropping prices, snapping up shares of blue chip companies like Apple and Exxon Mobil.
Like many active investors, Mr. Harber bought the stocks “on margin” which typically means putting down some money and borrowing the rest from the broker. But given the extreme volatility in the market that morning, Wells Fargo, he said, demanded that he pay for the stocks in full.
Mr. Harber said that even though he told Wells he could wire $19 million that day and deliver the balance the next day, the bank said it needed the total amount.
At the end of that day, he said, Wells sold all of the shares he had bought that day, resulting in a $5 million loss. Adding insult to injury, he said, he was charged about $480,000 in broker fees.