Monday, August 14, 2017

Wells Fargo: Organized Crime (And "Baby Seal Clubbers")

While the rest of the nation was (rightly) transfixed on the terrorist attacks in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend, this little gem spilled out regarding my favorite group of mobsters, er, big bankers, Wells Fargo:

Wells Fargo has already admitted to charging people for overdrawing bank accounts that they didn't have and for car insurance that they didn't need. Now, it's being accused of ripping off vulnerable mom-and-pop businesses.

For several years, Wells Fargo's merchant services division overcharged small businesses for processing credit card transactions, a lawsuit alleges. Business owners who tried to leave Wells Fargo were charged "massive early termination fees," according to the lawsuit filed in US District Court. 

The "overbilling scheme" targeted less sophisticated businesses by using "deceptive language" in a 63-page contract designed to confuse them, the lawsuit filed on August 4 claims. The lawyer filed court documents to seek class action status.

The latest controversy centers on Wells Fargo Merchant Services, a joint venture that is 60% owned by Wells Fargo and 40% controlled by First Data (FDC).

A former employee of the Wells Fargo (WFC) business told CNNMoney that he was instructed to target these small businesses.

"We used to be told to go out and club the baby seals: mom-pop-shops that had no legal support," he said in an interview. The former Wells Fargo employee spoke on the condition of anonymity, but CNNMoney verified that he worked for Wells Fargo Merchant Services.

The former Wells Fargo employee told CNNMoney that when he worked there, from 2011 to 2013, it was nearly impossible for business owners to leave the merchant agreement. "God would have had a hard time" escaping the contract, he said. "It really was like a shady used car deal."
It was exactly like a shady used car deal, just like most of Wells Fargo's business practices going back the past 15 years.

Just before vacation, my last post was on yet another revelation regarding Wells Fargo's criminal actions (and that post has all kinds of links regarding WF's criminal actions I and others have been documenting since the Great Recession meltdown nearly a decade ago). It's like you can't even go away for a few days to relax and boom, another WF scheme or heist comes to light.
The overbilling allegations are the latest black eye for Wells Fargo. Nearly a year ago, the bank admitted it created some two million potentially unauthorized bank and credit card accounts. Wells Fargo recently said an ongoing review of earlier accounts is likely to reveal many more fake accounts.

Wells Fargo has taken countless steps to try to fix its broken culture, including reforming the unrealistic sales goals that were at the heart of the scandal. The bank has also replaced its senior management and conducted an exhaustive internal investigation that uncovered red flags going back to 2004.
Sure, "replaced its senior management," but no one ever went to prison for these crimes, and despite having shelled out billions in "fines" to former investors and the government itself, not one mid-level or senior executive ever did time in the joint for what has amounted to massive rip off and extortion of its customer base for nearly 15 years.

BTW, if you "club baby seals" you can expect to do 5-10 years of hard time for animal cruelty and various violations of the Endangered Species Act. We guarantee prison time for crimes like this to DETER people from breaking the law.

But club mom and pop small business owners with extortion (er, "fees" to do business)? Shake down your auto loan customers? Steal people's homes out from under them via foreclosure fraud? Just pay your fine and carry on. 

Again, this past weekend brought into broad daylight the vileness, bigotry, and hatred of the "alt-right" and its attendant Nazis, Confederates and other disciples of losing hateful causes. And we are rightly appalled.

But honestly, when you get right down to it, do you know what the difference is between the Nazi white supremacists in Charlottesville this weekend, and the upper management at Wells Fargo for the past 15 years?

There is no difference. Criminals are criminals, and sociopaths are sociopaths. And no amount of fancy clothes, or suits, or sham pedigree credentials can distinguish between the two.

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