Fourteen U.S. senators want the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation on Wells Fargo executives over allegations they pushed bank employees to create millions of fake bank and credit card accounts, according to The Associated Press.
“A bank teller that takes a handful of bills from the cash drawer is likely to face charges for theft and prison time,” the letter stated. “She can’t hide behind an army of lawyers and corporate policies that diffuse accountability for those at the top. Meanwhile, an executive who oversees a massive fraud that implicates thousands of bank employees and costs customers millions of dollars can walk away with a hefty retirement package and millions in the bank.”
The letter continued: “Every time the Department of Justice settles a case of corporate fraud without holding individuals accountable, it reinforces the notion that the wealthy and powerful have purchased a higher class of justice for themselves.”
The senators who signed the letter include Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii; Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut; Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois; Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota; Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine; Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Democratic Sen., Patrick Leahy of Vermont; Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts; Democratic Sen., Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont; Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.
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In September, it was revealed that "Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses," said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to CNN.
In addition, Wells Fargo employees submitted applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without customer consent. This led to more than $400,000 in fees that customers had nothing to do with.
More than 5,000 Wells Fargo employees were fired, but they were allegedly just following orders from their bosses.
Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $185 million fine and refund $5 million to wronged customers.
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But the group of senators wants Wells Fargo executives to face criminal charges.
“Following the 2008 financial crisis, the American people watched as senior executives repeatedly escaped accountability for actions that nearly brought down the global economy,” the letter stated. “No top Wall Street executives went to prison or even faced prosecution. Instead, the government regularly settled for a penalty that was borne by the bank’s shareholders, not its executives. Even that penalty tended to pale in comparison to the profits the bank generated from its illegal activity.”