Nearly a year after Wells Fargo admitted it created millions of bogus accounts, the nation’s third-largest bank announced recently that it had uncovered more than a million additional accounts that its customers may not have authorized.
The disclosure dealt another blow to Wells Fargo’s battered reputation and brought the number of potentially unauthorized accounts to 3.5 million. Thousands of employees, pressured to meet aggressive sales goals, opened new accounts without customers’ knowledge, the Associated Press reported.
News of the bogus accounts upset Don Melendez, regional president of Wells Fargo’s Idaho operations. The episode, which identified some accounts in Idaho as “potentially compromised,” tarnished the bank’s image here and damaged relationships with customers and bank employees.
“I work for Wells Fargo,” Melendez told the Idaho Statesman. “I own this and it’s up to us to help people regain their trust in us. And not just customers, but our team.”
Wells Fargo is the No. 1 bank in the Treasure Valley, with 24 branches here and deposits of $2.9 billion — 27 percent of the market.
Its CEO, Tim Sloan, faced members of the Senate Banking Committee earlier this month, saying the bank is committed to its customers.
“I apologize for the damage done to all the people who work and bank at this important American institution,” Sloan told members of the Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo.
Melendez said the bank has made positive changes but must work to ensure nothing like this happens again.
“Rebuilding trust is one thing that is critical to our success,” Melendez said.
The Los Angeles Times first wrote about the situation in 2013, but Wells Fargo’s practices did not receive widespread attention until last year, when the bank agreed to pay $185 million in a settlement with federal and local regulators.
This past July, the bank said it would refund $80 million to about 570,000 auto-loan borrowers forced to buy insurance policies even though they had their own coverage.
In August, the bank reported in a regulatory filing that the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is investigating allegations that Wells Fargo improperly charged fees to borrowers when mortgage loan applications were delayed.
The new disclosures came after Wells Fargo investigated accounts created between 2009 and September 2016 as part of an agreement with federal regulators. Melendez said the bank will go back even further, to 2002, to identify additional “potentially unauthorized” accounts.
Winning back people’s trust will take time, he said.
“I don’t think people need to believe us right now,” Melendez said. “I think we’re going to have to earn that belief. I think we have a lot more to do.”
After the most recent disclosures, Melendez said he was heartened when he learned that customers in Boise and other Idaho towns were asking about employees.
“We had customers coming in and making sure their teller was OK and their banker was OK,” Melendez said. “That’s because taking care of customers for the right reasons builds that kind of relationship.”