Wells Fargo admits major foul

By Misty Severi

Millions of customers effected by “ghost accounts” being created in their name

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An RCC student withdraws cash at the Wells Fargo ATM machine outside the Cesar Chavez Building. (Jessica Veloz | Viewpoints)

Riverside City College students were left worried after Wells Fargo fired 5,300 of its employees on Sept. 8 for opening 2 million unknown and unwanted accounts for existing customers.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) fined Wells Fargo $100 million for the widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts, $50 million to the city and county of Los Angeles and $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The problem that has been going on nationwide for five years.

Although it has not been reported that customers in Riverside have been affected by this news,  RCC students have expressed concerns regarding the issue and are considering closing their accounts due to a lack of trust.

“This is our bank,” said Alexandria Jordan, an RCC student. “This is where we are putting our money, we should be able to feel safe about that and I just don’t feel safe.”

The Riverside branch at  6189 Magnolia Ave., which provides service to RCC, declined to comment.

Other students like Natsumi Kanashiro are supportive of Wells Fargo, but want more information before switching to another bank.  
“Although this has happened recently, I think we would stay until we heard more about it,” said Kanashiro, “We’ve spent a lot of time with them, they’re always very honest with us, very one on one.”

Kanashiro added that he would  consider withdrawing his account only if the issue became a bigger problem.  

A Wells Fargo executive commented on the situation.

“On average 1 percent of employees have not done the right thing and we terminated them” said John G. Stumpf, Wells Fargo chief executive officer in a Washington Post article.

“You want to get perfection. When we’re not perfect, I feel accountable,” said Stumpf.

The investigation is still ongoing, although it is clear that multiple violations occurred, including

opening deposit accounts and transferring funds without authorization, applying for credit cards without authorization, issuing and activating debit cards without authorization and creating phony email addresses to enroll consumers in online-banking services, according to a CFPB press release.

An article from CNNMoney details how employees who failed to meet their daily goals were reprimanded and told to do “whatever it takes to meet individual sales quotas,” according to allegations in the California lawsuit.“One former Wells Fargo employee … said he experienced this firsthand, he said managers told him to open unauthorized accounts and when customers called to apologize and say it was a mistake.”  

In response, Wells Fargo is being ordered to refund fees and charges that were paid because of these unauthorized accounts.  

It’s important to note that we sent letters and communicated with customers through their statements to let them know if they were impacted and refund them any fees they may have incurred,” said Richele Messick, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo. “The average refund was $25 and that was completed during the first quarter of this year. However, if anyone has questions we invite them to reach out to us.”