The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is investigating Wells Fargo after its employees opened up millions of unauthorized accounts.
“I think it’s pretty clear that opening accounts in people’s names without their authorization or knowledge would be an unfair, deceptive act or practice,” said Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan, who works with the office’s Consumer Protection Division.
Janice Rivers found her dream home on Souder Street in northeast Philly. The 52-year-old teacher’s assistant for the Philadelphia School District bought the two-floor condominium in the winter of 2001 for $66,000. It had everything she was looking for: two spacious bathrooms, a deck for barbecuing, and a finished basement large enough to act as a workspace. This house is where she had planned to spend her golden years. But despite the memories she’s made here over the past 16 years and all the hopes she had for it, Rivers is now on the verge of losing her beloved house.
Rivers is one of the numerous black and Latino homeowners in Philadelphia who believe Wells Fargo has ripped them off. She’s been on the brink of homeownership disaster for the past two years, and she says it is due to the runaround Wells Fargo has given her on a loan modification that would have cut her monthly payments almost in half. Now, facing monthly mortgage payments of about $1,000, Rivers doesn’t see a realistic scenario in which she can consistently pay off the loans.
To make ends meet, she’s tried to turn every room in the house into a revenue generator. In the basement, she runs a daycare business. Upstairs, she makes gift baskets and party decorations. But despite her efforts, the financial burden has become unbearable.
“I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights wondering what would be the outcome of my home,” she says. “I didn’t want to spend money. I didn’t want to do a vacation or work on my home. I didn’t know how much I would need to save my home, and if I would need to save it… Every penny mattered.”
On August 31, just hours after Wells Fargo revealed that employees had created at least another 1.4 million unauthorized consumer accounts, a coalition of 33 consumer groups fired off a letter to two congressional banking committees charging the bank may have lied to Congress last year about its fraudulent auto insurance sales.
The coalition, led by Public Citizen & Americans for Financial Reform, suggest top-ranking executives at Wells Fargo may have misled lawmakers during an active investigation last year. During congressional hearings held in September 2016, the executives “may have knowingly and deliberately withheld information” about the bank’s fraudulent auto insurance sales practice, according to the coalition.
The auto loan scandal, broken by the New York Times earlier this month, revealed an internal Wells Fargo report that showed the bank had charged more than 800,000 people for auto insurance they did not need, leading 274,000 customers to become delinquent on their car loans and nearly 25,000 to have their vehicles repossessed. Some of them had their credit damaged, including enlisted military personnel who stand to lose security clearances as a result of damaged credit scores.
The consumer coalition reports that the bank’s own timeline showed it was aware of the 800,000 customers sold unnecessary insurance in July 2016, several months before when the executives testified before the two banking committees in Congress. “Yet Stumpf’s testimony made no mention of this misconduct, even when he was asked directly whether fraudulent activity might exist in other business lines,” the coalition pointed out.
More bad news for Wells Fargo.
A Manhattan federal appeals court on Thursday revived a whistleblower suit against the beleaguered bank, reviving allegations by two former employees that Wells hid billions in losses and defrauded the federal government during the financial crisis.
The former employees also claim they were fired when they brought the alleged misconduct to higher ups.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley was investigated and cleared by an outside law firm for failing to disclose his half-sister’s position as an executive at Wells Fargo & Co., according to an annual disclosure filing.
The omission was deemed to be unintentional, according to the documents. Dudley notified compliance officials and board members at the New York Fed when he realized his error in April, who in turn brought in the law firm to conduct an independent investigation, according to a note with the filing, which was posted on the district bank’s website.
Attorneys at Jenner & Block LLP in New York reviewed thousands of documents including personal emails and text messages and interviewed more than 20 people inside and outside the New York Fed as part of its investigation, according to the firm’s report, which was also attached to the filing.
A group of Wells Fargo & Co. customers who say they were victims of unfair overdraft practices want their claims heard in court, but the bank wants the disputes handled through arbitration.
Class-action lawsuits filed around the country have accused Wells Fargo of changing the order of debit card transactions — from highest dollar amount to lowest dollar amount — to unfairly increase the number of transactions eligible for overdraft penalties.