Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) imposed its largest penalty ever against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. for violations of the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). The bank agreed to pay a $100 million fine to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund, a $35 million penalty to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and $50 million to the City of Los Angeles to resolve an enforcement action and civil suit stemming from improper sales practices dating back to 2011. The CFPB found that Wells Fargo set sales targets and implemented incentive programs that led an estimated 5,300 employees to engage in unfair and abusive “cross-selling” practices to meet sales quotas and earn financial rewards. Such practices included opening over 1.5 million unauthorized deposit accounts, applying for credit cards and ordering debit cards using consumers’ information without their knowledge or consent, and enrolling consumers in online banking services they never requested. Wells Fargo agreed to the CFPB’s consent order without admitting or denying its findings and conclusions. The bank also agreed to pay $5 million in customer remediation and retain an independent consultant to assess whether the bank’s policies and procedures are designed to ensure that its sales practices comply with federal law. The CFPB’s order serves as a wake-up call to the banking industry to carefully monitor its sales practices and incentive compensation programs.
These penalties are only the latest fines levied on Wells Fargo for violations of the CFPA. In August, the CFPB fined Wells Fargo $3.6 million for unfair and deceptive student loan servicing practices and ordered it to pay $410,000 in relief to borrowers. According to the CFPB, Wells Fargo improperly aggregated and processed loan payments in a manner that maximized fees, misrepresented the value of making partial loan payments, charged improper late fees and failed to correct inaccurate information reported to credit reporting companies.