Security & Fraud

California AG Looking Into Criminal Charges Against Wells Fargo

As if it couldn’t get any worse for embattled Wells Fargo, Los Angeles Times is reporting that the California Department of Justice is looking into criminal identity theft over the creation of the fake accounts.

The report, citing a search warrant sent to the bank’s headquarters earlier this month, reported the warrant and documents confirm California Attorney General Kamala Harris has joined a list of public officials and government agencies investigating the actions of Wells Fargo. Harris wants the bank to hand over a ton of information, including the identities of California customers who the bank opened fake accounts on. The attorney general also wants information about the fees incurred by those accounts, the names of the Wells Fargo employees who opened the accounts and their managers, as well as emails and other communications. She also wants information about accounts Wells Fargo workers opened in other states.

The report noted documents filed with the search warrant contend there is probable cause to think Wells Fargo violated two sections of California’s penal code, with one outlawing impersonation and the other outlawing unauthorized use of personal information. Both charges can be felonies and result in jail time of more than one year. It’s not clear who the attorney general is looking to charge, noted the report.

Last month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined Wells Fargo $185 million, the largest fine levied from the government agency. It also ordered Wells Fargo to refund $5 million in fees that the bank wrongly charged customers. According to an investigation by the CFPB, Wells Fargo employees not only made fake deposit accounts but also submitted 565,443 unauthorized credit card account applications on behalf of unknowing customers. It’s estimated that 14,000 of those accounts accrued $403,145 in fees. Through its own independent investigation, the bank discovered a total of $2.6 million in unauthorized fees.

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