Former employees of Wells Fargo have alleged that among those they were instructed to target in the opening of sham accounts were Native Americans and immigrants who were residing in the United States illegally. The employees also claimed that college students were targeted in a bid to reach the sales goals of the bank which involved bringing in new customers in order to open legitimate and unauthorized accounts.
The allegations by the former employees who were drawn from diverse states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, Utah and California were contained in a lawsuit shareholders have filed against the board of directors of the bank. The lawsuit was filed in 2016 at the Superior Court in San Francisco, California.
One ex-employee of Wells Fargo who worked at Petaluma branch disclosed that Latino employees at the branch would be regularly sent to a nearby convenience store which was a popular haunt for day laborers.
“The Wells Fargo employees were instructed to ‘round up’ a group of the undocumented workers and drive them back to the Wells Fargo branch to open checking and savings accounts,” a statement from the ex-employee, Denny Russo, revealed.
Another employee who was stationed at one of the Wells Fargo branches in Salt Lake City, Kelsey Hess, revealed that executives encouraged employees to visit construction sites that were situated nearby and seek out construction workers who were living in the United States illegally with a view to opening unauthorized accounts under their names.
However, the chief executive officer of Wells Fargo denied that this was the case arguing that it wasn’t a logical thing to do since the federal law forbids dealing with undocumented immigrants. It is possible for non-citizens to open bank accounts in the United States using IDs issued by foreign governments.
Just the beginning
Ancel Martinez, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, added that the bank would never have agreed to such practices as they would have been against the values and policies of the bank. As more stories emerge surrounding the sham bank accounts saga at Wells Fargo, the higher the likelihood of even more employees and ex-employees coming forward with even more damaging revelations as they increasingly begin to feel more empowered. The number of lawsuits is also likely to climb. Despite the fact that Wells Fargo has consented to paying $142 million for the settling of consumer lawsuits and an additional $185 million as a fine to the regulator, there is a lawsuit filed by ex-employees to deal with as well as one filed by shareholders.