It’s not just a few bad apples. Wells Fargo, one of the largest banks in the world, has been fined $185 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators for secretly opening accounts without authorization from customers to boost sales goals and subsequently receive bonuses.
Around 5,300 employees were fired in connection to the fraud, which saw Wells Fargo customers receive numerous bank services they never asked for, like credit cards, online banking, deposit accounts, and debit cards. Employees who wanted to increase their sales numbers used privileged customer information to apply and/or acquire the products and services without the customers’ knowledge.
Among the violations cited by the CFPB were:
Opening deposit accounts and transferring funds without authorization: According to the bank’s own analysis, employees opened roughly 1.5 million deposit accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers. Employees then transferred funds from consumers’ authorized accounts to temporarily fund the new, unauthorized accounts. This widespread practice gave the employees credit for opening the new accounts, allowing them to earn additional compensation and to meet the bank’s sales goals. Consumers, in turn, were sometimes harmed because the bank charged them for insufficient funds or overdraft fees because the money was not in their original accounts.
Applying for credit card accounts without authorization: According to the bank’s own analysis, Wells Fargo employees applied for roughly 565,000 credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers. On those unauthorized credit cards, many consumers incurred annual fees, as well as associated finance or interest charges and other fees.
Issuing and activating debit cards without authorization: Wells Fargo employees requested and issued debit cards without consumers’ knowledge or consent, going so far as to create PINs without telling consumers.
Creating phony email addresses to enroll consumers in online-banking services: Wells Fargo employees created phony email addresses not belonging to consumers to enroll them in online-banking services without their knowledge or consent.
Not surprisingly, many people have called for Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to resign amid the revelations. But Stumpf told CNBC he has no plans to resign because he thinks “the best thing I could do right now is lead this company, and lead this company forward.” So the cure for bad leadership is more of the same leadership?
Stumpf then went on to defend his company’s values by saying, “We are sorry. We deeply regret any situation where a customer got a product they did not request. There is nothing in our culture, nothing in our vision and values that would support that. It’s just the opposite. Our goal is to make it right by a customer every time, 100 percent, and if we don’t do that, we feel accountable.”