WASHINGTON: Wells Fargo $ Co will play the Navajo Nation $6.5m to settle a case over “predatory and unlawful practices” by the bank, according to the Native American tribe.
The Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against Wells Fargo in federal and tribal courts in 2017, alleging the institution had opened unauthorized accounts for vulnerable tribe members of the possible millions of fake accounts opened by bank employees countrywide.
“The Navajo Nation and its members entrusted Wells Fargo with their finances and personal information,” stated the complaint. “In return, Wells Fargo preyed on members of the Navajo Nation, including Navajo elders, who are some of the Navajo Nation’s most vulnerable citizens.”
The complaint also stated that the San Francisco-based bank employees lied to Navajo customers, telling elderly Navajo citizens who did not speak English that in order to have their checks cashed they needed to open savings accounts, which they neither needed nor understood.
“The Navajo Nation learned only recently that, contrary to Wells Fargo’s express representation, since at least 2009 and continuing through 2016, Wells Fargo employees at branches on the Navajo Nation routinely opened unauthorized savings and credit accounts, misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts, obtained debit cards without customers’ consent, and enrolled customers in online banking without proper consent,” stated the complaint.
The settlement “puts other companies on notice that harmful business practices against the Navajo people will not be tolerated,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in the statement addressed to Wells Fargo’s “long campaign of predatory and unlawful practices.”
On their part, Wells Fargo said the settlement demonstrates its “commitment to make things right regarding past sales practices issues.”
This follows a $575m deal in 2018 with U.S states regarding claims that the bank opened phony accounts and improperly referred and charged consumers for financial products.
Wells Fargo continues to overcome the fallout from previous practices and it said last year that it had “re-established” itself, though the bank continues to receive harsh criticism from consumer advocates and politicians.
Two senior executives have left the bank recently following a series of scandals and Wells Fargo is still seeking a replacement for former CEO Timothy Sloan, who resigned in March.