DENVER (CBS4)– A former Wells Fargo employee says the pressure from the bank to meet aggressive sales goals was relentless.
Federal regulators fined Wells Fargo a combined $185 million on Thursday, alleging the bank’s employees illegally opened millions of unauthorized accounts for their customers in order to meet aggressive sales goals.
The bank employee, who didn’t want his identity revealed, said the sales goals set by Wells Fargo were far beyond what any other bank was setting.
“The pressure is always there,” said the employee who worked at Wells Fargo for six years.
“Sometimes it’s not about them not necessarily knowing, because they’re there and they’re signing for it, they just don’t know what they are signing for,” said the employee.
The San Francisco-based bank will pay $100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a federal agency created five years ago; $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and $50 million to the City and County of Los Angeles. It will also pay restitution to affected customers.
It is the largest fine the CFPB has levied against a financial institution and the largest fine in the history of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office.
The employee told CBS4’s Karen Morfitt that the practice was called “gaming” and he saw it first hand at the bank where he worked.
“Did I open them? No. Did I sometimes turn a blind eye to it? I’m going to be honest, yes. Especially as a manager you don’t have the ability to create your own sales, your numbers are based on your team that reports directly to you,” said the employee.
The CFPB said Wells Fargo sales staff opened more than two million bank and credit card accounts that may have not been authorized by customers. Money in customers’ accounts was transferred to these new accounts without authorization. Debit cards were issued and activated, as well as PINs created, without telling customers.
While the employee said incentives like bonuses and promotions may have been a factor for some employees, the thought of unemployment was typically the biggest motivator.
“Keeping your job is an incentive. You don’t meet your numbers, you’re going to lose your job very quickly,” said the employee.
He also believes the bank’s decision to no longer have those unrealistic goals will only be temporary.
Roughly 5,300 employees at Wells Fargo were fired in connection with this behavior, according to Los Angeles City Attorney’s office.
Wells Fargo released a statement: “We regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request.”
Wells Fargo said they’ve refunded $2.6 million in fees associated with products that were opened without authorization.