Imagine going into a store to buy something. A few months later, without having returned to the store, you find out the store bought one of their products on your behalf, without bothering to tell you about it or get your permission. That’s essentially what a class of consumers are alleging Wells Fargo did for more than a decade while its aggressive sales team were encouraged to do everything in their power to meet their quotas.
According to a recent class action consumer lawsuit, Wells Fargo allegedly created more than 2 million credit cards, lines of credit, checking accounts and savings accounts, without first getting approval from the customers for whom they were opening the accounts. Not only were the customers made to pay the fees to open these accounts they never wanted, but some of them suffered damage to their credit history as a result of credit cards and lines of credit that were opened for them and then never used.
After a class of consumers filed a class action lawsuit seeking claims against the bank for the sham accounts, Wells Fargo offered to settle the lawsuit for $110 million, but later raised their offer to $142 million after an investigation found that the practice of opening these sham accounts went back as far as 2002. That revelation prompted the plaintiffs’ attorneys to up their estimate of sham accounts from 2.1 million to 3.5 million, although they may not see a similar increase in the number of plaintiffs, as some plaintiffs allegedly had multiple sham accounts opened in their name.
The settlement amount is in addition to the $185 million Wells Fargo has already been made to pay to regulators after their practice of opening sham accounts on behalf of unsuspecting (and unwilling) customers was revealed. The resignation of the bank’s CEO at the time, John Stumpf, was another result of the scandal.
A California judge recently granted preliminary approval for the $142 million settlement, which means the class members will start receiving information on how they can submit their individual claims for benefits. No payments will be made until after the settlement has received final approval from a judge, but Wells Fargo has said it will start sending out notices to current and former customers about the settlement and how they can file their claims.
One of the biggest challenges in reaching a settlement agreement was determining the best way to compensate customers who had sham accounts opened on their behalf, especially if their credit rating was damaged as a result. Ultimately, the two sides decided to use a formula that takes into account any loans those customers took out while their credit score was low during the affected period. The rest of the class members will be compensated for the fees they were charged for the accounts that were opened on their behalf.
It is unclear at this time whether the settlement agreement includes an injunction against Wells Fargo using such practices in the future, but if the regulators got involved, it’s likely the bank has already changed its ways.
Our Oak Brook, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totalling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.
Our Mundelein and Grays Lake consumer attorneys provide assistance in data breach, privacy violation, fair debt collection, consumer fraud and consumer rights cases including in Illinois and throughout the country. You can click here to see a description of the some of the many individual and class-action consumer cases our Chicago consumer lawyers have handled. A video of our lawsuit which helped ensure more fan friendly security at Wrigley Field can be found here. You can contact one of our Gurnee, Lindehurst and Barrington consumer protection, gift card and data breach attorneys who can assist in consumer fraud, consumer rip-off, lemon law, unfair debt collection, predatory lending, wage claims, unpaid overtime and other consumer, or consumer class action cases by filling out the contact form at the side of this blog or by clicking here. You can also call our toll free number at 630-333-0333.