Wells Fargo has rung in the New Year with a new scandal, this time allegedly saddling mortgage holders with millions of dollars in interest-rate extension costs it should have paid itself. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little more fun with the O.G. Wells scandal, the case of the unauthorized account openings. The “handful of bad apples” theory propounded by former CEO John Stumpf never really satisfied anybody, least of all anyone in elective office. I mean, how did several thousand fairly low-level employees get away with it all? You know, what with all of the good apples around them?
Well, one way was to turn the ethics hotline Wells supposedly set up to allow the good apples to blow the whistle on questionable sales practices into grounds for firing. But that wasn’t all! No, in spite of the fact that the powers that be had absolutely no idea anything untoward was going on—thanks in part to their handing the ethics hotline over to the Bobs—they were giving the bad apples a bit of a heads up when the in-house NARCs were en route.
Managers and employees at the bank’s roughly 6,000 branches across the U.S. typically had at least 24 hours’ warning about annual reviews conducted by risk employees, current and former Wells Fargo employees and executives said.
And since these people weren’t the Picassos of fraud employed by Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, they needed every one of those 24 hours to cover up their rather sloppy trails.
Often, managers would call for all hands on deck at a branch to stay late into the evening—or sometimes all night—to shred documents or forge signatures if they weren’t there, some current and former managers said….
Some branches that opened accounts for customers without the customer present would cut and paste a signature the bank had on file for the customer and add it to the required signature card, Mr. Rodriguez said.
“You became numb to it,” he added. “It became pretty normal.”
It seems that Wells itself has become pretty numb to it to, because when contacted by the Journal about this latest front-page humiliation, the bank said that branches would continue to receive 24 hours’ notice before a “branch control review,” as it only wants to inconvenience customers by larding their financial histories with dozens of unwanted, unneeded accounts, and not by making them wait any longer in line when, for instance, they might actually want to open an account. Then it thought better of things.
Wells Fargo initially said it would keep the-24 hour notice after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal but late Monday said it plans to eliminate it.