Wells Fargo may have created 1.4 million more unauthorized accounts than estimated, attorneys say
Wells Fargo & Co. may have opened as many as 3.5 million unauthorized checking, savings and credit card accounts over the past 15 years, far more than the bank and federal regulators reported last year, according to a new court filing.
For months, the number of potentially unauthorized accounts bank employees may have created stood at 2.1 million – a number reported by regulators last year, based on the San Francisco bank’s analysis of accounts opened and credit card applications submitted between May 2011 and July 2015.
The new filing, submitted late Thursday by attorneys who are negotiating a class-action settlement with the bank, suggests an additional 1.4 million unauthorized accounts were opened dating to 2002. That’s the year, according to a recent bank internal investigation, that Wells Fargo executives first noticed the problem of employees opening accounts without customer authorization.
The new, higher figure is based on “public information, negotiations, and confirmatory discovery,” according to the filing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
The filing also cautions that the 3.5 million figure could be an over-estimate, though a reasonable one.
“The account number reported in yesterday’s filing are estimates made by the plaintiffs’ attorneys based on a hypothetical scenario and have not been verified,” a Wells Fargo spokesman said Friday. “The number of unauthorized accounts estimated in the filing do not reflect actual unauthorized accounts.”
Wells Fargo said Thursday it plans to trim $2 billion in costs by the end of 2019, doubling a previous target as it remains under pressure to lower expenses in the wake of a sales scandal.
The San Francisco-based bank revealed the additional cost-cutting goal as part of an “investor day” event in which executives also outlined ways the company aims to boost revenue and roll out innovative new products.