Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Wells Fargo Still Defrauding Clients

Wells Fargo Killing Law Suits Via Arbitration:

In congressional hearing rooms and on national television, Wells Fargo has vowed to make things right for the thousands of customers who were given sham accounts.

The bank’s new chief executive, Timothy J. Sloan, in his first week on the job, said his “immediate and highest priority is to restore trust in Wells Fargo.”

But in federal and state courtrooms across the country, Wells Fargo is taking a different tack.
The bank has sought to kill lawsuits that its customers have filed over the creation of as many as two million sham accounts by moving the cases into private arbitration — a secretive legal process that often favors corporations.

Lawyers for the bank’s customers say the legal motions are an attempt to limit the bank’s accountability for the widespread fraud and deny its customers their day in open court.
Essentially, getting a judge to move these law suits against Wells to arbitration takes them out of the public view and allows the bank to settle the suits for undisclosed amounts of money, and without having to admit or be found guilty of criminal liability in court. 

It's like having a guy break into your house, steal all your valuables, and after he gets caught petition to have the case sent to arbitration, then "settling" with you by giving you back a portion of the valuables he stole from you. And never having to admit they are guilty of robbery or anything else.
“It is ridiculous,” said Jennifer Zeleny, who is suing Wells Fargo in federal court in Utah, along with about 80 other customers, over unauthorized accounts. “This is an issue of identity theft — my identity was used so employees could meet sales goals. This is something that needs to be litigated in a public forum.”

In arbitration, consumers often find the odds are stacked against them. The arbitration clauses prevent consumers from banding together to file a lawsuit as a class, forcing them instead to hash out their disputes one by one and blunting one of most powerful tools that Americans have in challenging harmful and deceitful practices by big companies.

Strict judicial rules limiting conflicts of interest also do not apply in arbitration, enabling some companies to steer cases to friendly arbitrators, according to a 2015 investigation by The New York Times.

Arbitration is also conducted outside public view, and the decisions are nearly impossible to overturn.
So in addition to committing identity theft on its own clients, the bank gets to make the suits disappear from public view (losing less future clients, stock value, etc.).
Ms. Zeleny, a lawyer who lives outside Salt Lake City and opened a Wells Fargo account when she started a new law practice, said it would be impossible for her to agree to arbitrate her dispute over an account that she had never signed up for in the first place.

The bank’s counterargument: The arbitration clauses included in the legitimate contracts customers signed to open bank accounts also cover disputes related to the false ones set up in their names.
LOL. I'm pretty sure I never agreed to have you, Wells Fargo, steal my identity and set up false accounts in my name. And never signed anything to indicate otherwise. 
Most Americans never bother to take their disputes to arbitration, particularly for a dispute over a small amount of money, the Times investigation showed.

And that is likely to be the case for many of the Wells Fargo customers who are sent into arbitration, lawyers say.

In many instances, the fees that customers were charged on the unauthorized accounts were less than $100. Few lawyers will take up individual arbitration claims when the potential damages are low.

“This is meant to have a chilling effect,” said Zane Christensen, a lawyer who represented customers in a suit against Wells Fargo in federal court in Utah. “They know customers will have a hard time finding a lawyer to represent them in arbitration.”
Luckily some of us know lawyers who are more than happy to take our cases in order to exact a measure of accountability and settlement from this criminal enterprise, er, bank.

But no matter what the final payout is, the fact that no one in upper management at Wells Fargo has gone to prison for fraud is the real injustice here. Only when Wells Fargo executives are frog-marched, in handcuffs and leg irons out the front door of their executive suites, will this kind of criminal behavior stop. 

Until then, write check, admit nothing, move on. Bravo, America.

UPDATE: And the hits just keep on coming. Now the insurance giant Prudential is accusing Wells Fargo executives of opening fraudulent insurance accounts on behalf of its unwitting clients (but only after firing three of its employees who blew the whistle).
According to three former managers in Prudential’s corporate investigation division, Wells Fargo employees appeared to have signed up bank customers for Prudential insurance without the customers’ knowledge or permission. In some cases, they even arranged for monthly premium fees to be withdrawn from their customers’ accounts.

When investigators reviewed tapes of calls to Prudential’s customer service line, they found complaints from Wells Fargo customers about policies they did not remember buying. Many of the customers did not speak English and needed a Spanish interpreter, the three plaintiffs said.

“This definitely was the same kind of conduct that Wells was committing, but through Prudential,” said one of the three whistle-blowers, Julie Han Broderick, an attorney and former co-head of Prudential’s corporate investigations division, which has about 30 employees.

Ms. Broderick and two of her colleagues, Darron Smith and Thomas Schreck, filed a wrongful termination suit against Prudential on Tuesday. They say they were fired in November for trying to escalate attention internally to their discoveries about conduct at Wells Fargo. 
Awesome sauce. Next up: Wells Fargo takes out insurance and opens credit card accounts on dead people.

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