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WELLS FARGO RECEIVES MASSIVE $190 MILL. FINE FOR FRAUDULENTLY OPENING 1.5 MILL. FAKE ACCOUNTS

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on September 19, 2016

 

Just recently Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement with government agencies (The office of the Comptroller of Currency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Los Angeles City Attorney) to pay a civil penalty of $190 million over its disturbing history of opening fake accounts in customers’ names without the customers’ consent or authorization.

Government investigations have revealed that Wells Fargo pushed its branches to meet high sales quotas, and that a rampant scheme amongst several managers and employees resulted in accounts and credit cards being opened in customers’ names in order for the branches to meet the high quotas. A Wall Street Journal article that describes this history of this disturbing issue can be read by clicking HERE .

In May 2015, the Los Angeles City Attorney filed a lawsuit suit against Wells Fargo, alleging the bank pressured its employees to commit fraudulent acts, including opening accounts for people that don’t exist. The City Attorney filed its lawsuit under the California Unfair Business Practices Act and Unfair Competition Laws.

The CFPB and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also opened investigations and found that bank employees illegally transferred money from legitimate accounts into unauthorized ones opened for customers without their approval.

More information about the investigation can be read in this CNN Money article, by clicking HERE

Per the Press Release issued by the CFPB:

“Spurred by sales targets and compensation incentives, employees boosted sales figures by covertly opening accounts and funding them by transferring funds from consumers’ authorized accounts without their knowledge or consent, often racking up fees or other charges. According to the bank’s own analysis, employees opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers.”

“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,’ said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed. Today’s action should serve notice to the entire industry that financial incentive programs, if not monitored carefully, carry serious risks that can have serious legal consequences.”

A copy of the CFPB consent order can be read HERE

Wells Fargo now claims that it will eliminate all sales goals for credit cards, checking accounts, and other retail products starting January 1, 2016 as a measure of addressing these concerns. Additionally, approximately 5,300 employees have been fired over this rampant scheme of fraud. A Los Angeles Times article on Wells Fargo’s recent response can be read HERE.

However, despite the fine and employee terminations and promises of eliminating the aggressive sales tactics that resulted in the widespread scheme of fraud, some people are still outraged that no criminal proceedings are on the forefront. Newsman Ben Swann recently conducted a piece on this issue on his show Reality Check. Watch the video below:

We at Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in handling these very issues on behalf of consumers. When an account is opened in a customers’ name without their consent or authorization, it is without a doubt an illegal account. And when that illegal account accrues fees and costs, but when those fees/costs are not paid because the customer is not aware of the account having been opened, there will inevitably be negative credit reporting and debt collection efforts.

Anyone who has been a victim of this scam deserves justice. We can help.

If you or a loved one have had this unfortunate experience, please do not hesitate to call us for a free and confidential consultation.

Please note, nothing herein is to be construed as legal advice, and is instead hyperbolic opinions on an issue of public concern. Proper legal advice can only be given after a full, and confidential, consultation takes place after a review of all of the client’s circumstances.

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DOES A DEBT COLLECTOR OR BANK REFUSE TO ACCEPT YOUR CLAIM OF IDENTITY THEFT?

  • Jared Hartman, Esq.
  • Posted on January 15, 2016

 

Imagine a bank—such as Wells Fargo—contacts you and claims you owe them money on a credit card that you’ve never heard of. You ask some questions about the time and location of the application, and you discover that, indeed, this account was opened in your name fraudulently. You tell Wells Fargo’s agents that you never opened this account and you have been the victim of identity theft. However, they ignore your complaints and persists in calling you in an attempt to collect. You are now facing the very real future of continued harassing calls, threatening letters, potential debt collection lawsuits against you, potential wage garnishments and bank levies, and potential negative credit reporting against your name and social security number. All over an account that you never opened. What do you do? How do you protect yourself?

In California, consumers who are the victims of identity theft are actually protected by law from debt collection activity upon the account opened under identity theft, but you cannot just sit idly by and hope everything falls into place. You must take action, and we at Semnar & Hartman, LLP are experienced in helping!!

Under California Code 1798.92-1798.93, if you or a loved one have been the victim of identity theft, you can bring a lawsuit against a debt collector or bank that is claiming they are owed money upon the fraudulent account in order to have a judicial finding (called declaratory relief) that you are not liable upon the account. In connection with such a lawsuit, you can request a court order (called an injunction) that the debt collector or bank stop trying to collect from you, and you can also have the court order that any security interest (such as a car title loan or home mortgage loan) is void and unenforceable. Moreover, if the bank or debt collector has filed a lawsuit against you, you can file a counter claim against them seeking dismissal of their lawsuit in addition to declaratory relief and an injunction.

In order to recover attorneys’ fees, costs of litigation, actual damages, however, you have to put them on written notice of the identity theft and provide them a copy of either a police report or DMV report showing that you lodged a formal report as a victim of identity theft. You have to provide this written notice and the police report to the address identified by the creditor as being their address for processing identity theft claims. You have to also wait 30 days after providing such notice before filing suit. If they have failed to diligently investigate the claim and persisted in their efforts to collect despite your compliance with all of the above, then you may also be able to recover a statutory penalty against them for up to $30,000.00 in addition to actual damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs of litigation.

A sample complaint against Wells Fargo for this very type of allegation can be found by clicking here.

There are other laws under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act that protect your credit reports from suffering derogatory accounts opened under identity theft and fraud, that prevent new fraudulently accounts from being reported, that require the credit reporting agencies to remove accounts that have been identified by you as identity theft, and place a freeze on your credit and prevents new accounts from being opened entirely. However, these laws require their own steps to be taken by you and will be reported under a different article. We are experienced in handling these claims as well.

We can help you protect yourself!!! Do not hesitate to contact us immediately for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights and to see how we can help.