The thing about admitting to essentially having a policy to open millions of bogus accounts is that no one is likely to take you at your word when you reveal the scope of the mess. And so Wells Fargo was always going to have to have someone from outside come in and check its math, which added up to 2.1 million unauthorized accounts opened between 2011 and 2015. And surprise, surprise: Wells didn’t count so good.
An outside review into more than 165 million deposit and credit-card accounts found an additional 1.4 million that were potentially unauthorized, bringing the total to about 3.5 million….
In fairness, the outside reviewers were looking at three more years than Wells looked at initially. And the good news is, in spite of looking a 72% longer time period, those reviewers only found 67% more phony accounts. So, you know, progress. On the other hand, there’s still at least seven more years’ worth of accounts to sift through.
The new review doesn’t go back as far as 2002, the year that executives first knew about the sales misconduct and fired employees over it, according to investigators hired by the company’s board. Lawyers representing customers who said they were harmed by the bank’s abusive sales practices claimed in a lawsuit, known as Jabbari v Wells Fargo, that bank employees probably created 3.5 million bogus accounts starting in May 2002.
Looks like Wells isn’t the only one not especially good at estimating the size of the catastrophe; even those with a decided interest in getting the biggest possible number out there couldn’t quite comprehend the extent of the thing. Oh yea, and there’s this, too.
The expanded review also uncovered about 528,000 potentially unauthorized online bill-pay enrollments, highlighting users with only one “minimal” payment and no further use of the service. “The analysis did not definitively identify whether an enrollment was authorized by a customer or not, and properly authorized enrollments are likely part of this total,” Wells Fargo said in the statement, adding that affected customers will be refunded $910,000 for related fees and charges.