The Los Angeles Times has published an opinion piece alleging that the “biggest criminal enterprise in California” is not a street gang or drug cartel, but “in terms of sheer volume of offenses,” none other than Wells Fargo Bank. With fraud and other actionable behavior ranging from creating costly false accounts for millions of customers to instituting improper extra borrowing fees to charging customres for unsought and unwanted auto insurance (driving nearly 275,000 owners into deliquency leading to as many as 25,000 wrongful vehicle repossessions in the state), the banking giant is racking up a misconduct record (including some potentially criminal misconduct) of world-class proportions.
Meanwhile, the bank strenuously continues to argue in court filings that its mistreated customers should be denied the recourse of banding together to file class action lawsuits for justice and restitution (though that lawsuit-aggregation mechanism is routinely used by the banks themselves when they encounter what they see is misconduct against their own business). Instead, the bank argues that its defrauded customers must each pursue individual arbitration outside of a court of law, arbitration that is incidentally likely to cost the individual customers more than any recovery they might see (even if the bank, who would be footing the bill for the arbitrators, doesn’t win).
The piece argues that despite fines and other penalties, and even new legislation that may be coming to address some of Wells Fargo’s underlying conduct, none of these results do enough to truly deter the bank from these and other fraudulent and improper behaviors. And, as the author points out, “President Trump’s administration is hardly likely to consider, much less lodge, such charges against a major bank.”
Op-Ed author Harold Meyerson is the executive editor of the American Prospect. You can read the full text of his powerful editorial on the Los Angeles Times’ website.