Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that Wells Fargo Bank N.A. will pay $575 million to resolve claims that the bank violated state consumer protection laws. The settlement alleges Wells Fargo opened millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolled customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, improperly referred customers for enrollment in third-party renters and life insurance policies, improperly charged auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, failed to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and incorrectly charged customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees. Virginia will receive $11,546,080.48 as its share of the settlement.
“Consumers should not have to bear the costs of services they did not want and did not sign up for,” said Attorney General Herring. “Wells Fargo must be held accountable for creating a corporate culture of unreasonable sales goals and incentives that led to employees using deceptive tactics to fill quotas for fear of losing their jobs. With this settlement, we are sending a message that consumer needs, and not just profit, should drive decisions when providing financial services to consumers.”
As part of this multistate settlement, Wells Fargo will also create a consumer redress review program through which consumers who have not been made whole through other restitution programs already in place can seek review of their inquiry or complaint by a bank escalation team for possible relief. To date, this settlement represents the most significant engagement involving a national bank by state attorneys general acting without a federal law enforcement partner.
Wells Fargo has identified more than 3.5 million accounts where customer accounts were opened, funds were transferred, credit card applications were filed, and debit cards were issued without the customers’ knowledge or consent. The bank has also identified 528,000 online bill pay enrollments nationwide that may have resulted from improper sales practices at the bank. Additionally, Wells Fargo improperly submitted more than 6,500 renters insurance and/or simplified term life insurance policy applications and payments from customer accounts without the customers’ knowledge or consent.