Wells Fargo Illegally Took 413 Servicemembers' Cars

| by Sarah Zimmerman
Wells Fargo CEO John StumpfWells Fargo CEO John Stumpf

Wells Fargo found itself embroiled in yet another scandal after 413 military members claim that the bank illegally repossessed their vehicles. 

The first complaint came in 2008 from a North Carolina Army National Guardsman, who claimed that Wells Fargo confiscated his car right before his deployment to Afghanistan. The bank then went on to auction the vehicle and tried to collect an additional $10,000 from his family, according to CNN.

Similar complaints were filed until 2015, when the U.S. Department of Justice decided to open an official investigation.

"Wells Fargo Bank unlawfully repossessed hundreds of servicemembers’ cars without the proper process, and the bank will now rightfully pay for its violations," said Justice official Bill Baer in a statement, according to Bloomberg. "[The department] is committed to protecting our country’s servicemembers as they continue to fight for our freedom."

The bank is forced to pay each affected soldier $10,000 and will additionally pay the car's lost equity with interest, according to CNN.

Wells Fargo has also been fined an additional $20 million by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for denying servicemen basic banking protections, like capping their interest rates. 

“In those instances where some servicemembers did not receive the appropriate benefits and protections, we did not live up to our commitment and we apologize,” said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Catherine Pulley in a statement to Bloomberg.

They hope to resolve this issue quickly, adding that "We have been notifying and fully compensating customers and will complete this work in 60 days."

The troubling news comes after accusations that 5,300 employees opened approximately 2 million phony accounts, forcing Americans across the country to pay bank fees for accounts they never opened.

The fraudulent accounts earned the company a huge profit, allowing Wells Fargo employees to boost sales figures. Some workers went as far as to create fake pin numbers and email addresses, according to CNN.

Customer's funds were moved without their knowledge or consent into new accounts. That meant that affected citizens had to pay associated fees and even penalties for credit cards or bank accounts they didn't even know existed.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said that Wells Fargo's illegal activity was "widespread." As the scope of the bank's numerous scandals seems to unfold, customers are taking their business elsewhere.

"They lost me as a banking customer and I have warned family and friends," said Brian Kennedy, one of the millions of Americans affected.

Sources: CNN (2), Bloomberg / Photo credit: Richard Sennott/

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