Last month, we learned that Wells Fargo defrauded tens of thousands of customers, opening as many as two million unauthorized accounts and saddling victims with nearly $2.5 million in fees. This is an outrageous abuse of hardworking families across the country, including here in Ohio. We need to get to the bottom of this scandal quickly, make things right with Wells Fargo’s customers, and then make sure this never happens again.
This isn’t a matter of account mix-ups or “unwanted products,” as Wells Fargo called it — this is 5,300 employees, over half a decade, forging signatures, stealing identities, swiping Social Security numbers, and taking customers’ hard-earned money. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the tellers and other low-paid employees who faced unrealistic account quotas lost their jobs — while the bank executive in charge of the department was set to get a $125 million golden parachute.
Wells Fargo’s response has been as outrageous as its actions. The bank did not treat this as a problem until it appeared in the papers, and didn’t even begin the process of attempting to rectify its mistakes and make customers whole until this year. To make matters worse, Wells Fargo is using fine print buried in the contracts of their real accounts to deny victims their right to sue over fraudulent accounts they never signed up for.
That’s wrong, and this month I announced legislation to prevent Wells Fargo from blocking victims from seeking justice in court.
We must hold Wells Fargo accountable for making things right for the hardworking Ohioans who were victims of these abuses. After my colleagues and I called for accountability for executives that oversaw this scandal, Wells Fargo finally announced it would claw back some of those executives’ multi-million dollar payouts.
I encourage any Wells Fargo customers in Ohio who think they have been wronged to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at consumerfinance.gov or at 855-411-2372. You can submit a complaint online or over the phone, and make your voice heard. The CFPB is an entire agency staffed by professionals who are there to look out for you — average customers — and stand up to the big banks on your behalf. Ohioans can also visit my website, brown.senate.gov, and contact my office.
Abuses like this are why Ohioans are fed up with Wall Street. Yet even as we work to clean up after this scandal, too many in Washington seem to have amnesia about why we passed Wall Street Reform and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the first place.
Washington and Wall Street may have moved on, but Wells Fargo customers and the thousands of other Ohioans who have been wronged by the big banks’ risky behavior don’t have that luxury.
Instead of focusing on damage control, Wells Fargo needs to admit the problem, fix them, and treat its customers with respect. And we need to ensure strong rules are in place to protect consumers from the worst Wall Street abuses, and ensure this fraud never happens again.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.