Justices Let Stand$203M Overdraft Award Against Wells Fargo

By Chris Bruce

April 4 — The U.S. Supreme Court April 4 turned away a Wells Fargo plea to review class-action questions in connection with a $203 million award for plaintiffs who said the bank misrepresented overdraft fees.

Wells Fargo filed its petition in April 2015, asking the justices whether federal courts may certify classes and award monetary relief to all class members in a Rule 23 action “even though the class includes individuals who were not harmed by the challenged conduct and could not have prevailed in an individual action.”

The case originally was distributed for the court's Sept. 28, 2015, conference, but was affected by several class-action rulings by the court. The case was most recently distributed for conference again April 1.

The justices' refusal to hear the case closes a long-running battle brought by consumers who challenged overdraft fees charged by the bank. After a district court awarded them $203 million, Wells Fargo appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Ninth Circuit held for the bank, saying federal law preempts claims by Veronica Gutierrez and others who said the bank generated additional overdrafts — and the ensuing fees — by posting large-dollar debits before small-dollar transactions.

On remand, the district court upheld the award, but on a different basis, saying the bank misled consumers by leading them to believe that processing would be done on a chronological basis when in fact it was not .

The Ninth Circuit generally upheld the decision in an unpublished Oct. 29, 2014, ruling.

Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to a request for comment April 4.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Bruce in Washington at cbruce@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bna.com