For years we have wondered why Wells Fargo, America's largest mortgage lender, is also Warren Buffett's favorite bank. Now we know why.
On Thursday, Wells Fargo was fined $185 million, (including a $100 million penalty from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the largest penalty the agency has ever issued) for engaging in pervasive fraud over the years which included opening credit cards secretly without a customer’s consent, creating fake email accounts to sign up customers for online banking services, and forcing customers to accumulate late fees on accounts they never even knew they had. Regulators said such illegal sales practices had been going on since at least 2011.
In all, Wells opened 1.5 million bank accounts and "applied" for 565,000 credit cards that were not authorized by their customers.
Wells Fargo told to CNN that it had fired 5,300 employees related to the shady behavior over the last few years. The firings represent about 1% of its workforce and took place over several years. The fired workers went to far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the CFPB said.
How Wells perpetrated fraud is that its employees moved funds from customers' existing accounts into newly-created accounts without their knowledge or consent, regulators say. The CFPB described this practice as "widespread" and led to customers being charged for insufficient funds or overdraft fees, because the money was not in their original accounts. Additionally, Wells Fargo employees also submitted applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without their knowledge or consent, the CFPB said the analysis found. Many customers who had unauthorized credit cards opened in their names were hit by annual fees, interest charges and other fees.
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