Wells Fargo Faces$5 Million Lawsuit on Unauthorized Accounts

By Chris Bruce

Sept. 16 — Wells Fargo customers filed a $5 million lawsuit against the bank, saying Wells Fargo opened bank accounts without authorization and transferred funds without consumers’ consent ( Mitchell v. Wells Fargo Bank, D. Utah, No. 16-cv-00966, complaint filed 9/16/16 ).

The Sept. 16 complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah comes on the heels of a $185 million enforcement action against Wells Fargo by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the city of Los Angeles (175 BBD, 9/9/16).

The lawsuit, framed as a class action, said the bank engaged in unfair practices under Utah law. It also alleged violations of the Stored Communications Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and other federal laws.

Wells Fargo spokesman Ancel Martinez Sept. 16 declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The Sept. 8 regulatory action against the bank included a $100 million penalty by the CFPB, that agency's largest to date.

`Unrelenting Pressure' Alleged

According to the CFPB, employees boosted sales figures by secretly opening and funding accounts without authorization by consumers, even while using customers funds to accomplish those actions.

The CFPB cited sales pressure at Wells Fargo as the driving force for actions by employees. That claim was echoed in the 68-page complaint, which said Wells Fargo “imposes unrelenting pressure on its bankers to open numerous accounts per customer.”

The complaint asked the court to certify a class of customers had checking, savings, and brokerage accounts with Wells Fargo, and those with Wells Fargo financial advisors or mortgages.

The potential class also includes anyone who “used any of Wells Fargo’s banking services” in the previous four years.

Wells Fargo is still managing fallout from the episode. The House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee plan to hold hearings to examine the bank's actions.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Ferullo at mferullo@bna.com

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