Wells Fargo then charged some of those customers for insufficient funds or overdraft fees because the money had been removed from the original account, regulators said.
The employees also applied for credit cards on behalf of more than a half-million existing customers without their knowledge or consent, the CFPB said, enrolled them in banking services they did not ask for, and activated debit cards -- in some cases "going so far as to create [new] PINs without telling consumers." As a result of the investigation, Wells Fargo fired more than 5,300 employees who were in on the scam.
“If what we hear in the media about the treatment of whistleblowers is true, Wells Fargo has a much bigger issue than the fraudulent accounts–they have a culture of fear,” he says.
In late September, Reuters identified Ponce de Leon and at least four other former Wells Fargo employees who reported to OSHA between 20 that they were fired for raising concerns about the opening of unauthorized accounts and credit cards.
"It is important to understand the context, the five-year period involved and the size of our workforce," a Wells Fargo spokesperson said in a statement.
"The actions we have taken with respect to team members and managers reflect our commitment to monitoring and addressing any inappropriate sales conduct.
On an annual basis, more than 100,000 team members worked in our stores, and the number terminated represents about 1 percent of this workforce over the five-year period." In its largest fine ever imposed on a bank, the CFPB ordered Wells Fargo to pay 0 million for the scam.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, another federal regulator, issued a fine of million, and the City and County of Los Angeles will receive million from the bank. The enforcement action is retroactive to the start of 2011.