Wells Fargo Chief Executive Tim Sloan denied the company had specifically targeted undocumented workers during the years workers were creating fake customer accounts, but according to a former Wells Fargo employee, Yesenia Guitron, that is exactly what Wells Fargo did.
According to a report in American Banker, Guitron, who worked for Wells Fargo in St. Helena, Calif., from 2008 to 2010 said in several interviews the pressure-filled sales environment led bankers in her branch to go after undocumented vineyard workers to meet the daily quota of opening eight new accounts each day.
“In 125 days, you are going to run out of customers to sell accounts to,” she said, given that the St. Helena branch employed five bankers and the town was small. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” added Guitron. The report noted bankers often opened as many as 10 accounts under one vineyard worker’s name without the knowledge of the person. With the fees going unpaid on the accounts over time, Wells Fargo would charge the accounts off.
But it’s not just Guitron who told the American Banker Wells Fargo targeted undocumented workers. Three other ex-Wells Fargo bankers around the country had similar stories to tell in a recent shareholder lawsuit. The report noted that based on the stories, it may have been that undocumented immigrants have been the subject of a lot of the fake account abuse that went on at the bank.
In 2016, Wells Fargo said it created as high as two million accounts without the knowledge of clients. The bank paid out $185 million in fines and penalties to settle the issue in September. The report noted it’s not clear if the targeting of undocumented workers went beyond just a handful of regions around the country.
“If the bank targeted a specific ethnic group, this raises the question of whether Wells Fargo also broke fair-lending laws,” said Rohit Chopra, a senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America in an interview.