Bank Watch

Wells Fargo loses Better Business Bureau accreditation

Wells Fargo has lost its accreditation with the Better Business Bureau, another setback for the San Francisco company as it grapples with fallout from a scales scandal.
Wells Fargo has lost its accreditation with the Better Business Bureau, another setback for the San Francisco company as it grapples with fallout from a scales scandal. AFP/Getty Images

Wells Fargo has lost its accreditation with the Better Business Bureau, another setback for the San Francisco company as it grapples with fallout from a sales scandal.

The Arlington, Va.-based organization stripped the accreditation following Wells’ settlement last month with regulators who accused the bank of opening millions of accounts that customers may not have authorized. The government action pushed Wells Fargo below the “B” rating required for businesses to maintain accreditation.

In a statement, Wells Fargo said it will “continue to work hard to restore our customers’ trust” and is “focused on providing the best service to our customers.” The bank said its No. 1 priority is making things right with its customers and restoring public trust, pointing to steps it is taking to ensure its sales culture is “100 percent aligned with our customers’ interests.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf to step down during a Sept. 20 Senate Banking Committee hearing for his role in the bank's unauthorized accounts scandal.

Tom Bartholomy, president of the Better Business Bureau of the Southern Piedmont, called the loss of Wells Fargo’s accreditation “quite remarkable.” Wells is the biggest company Bartholomy said he’s seen receive a revocation during his 34 years with the BBB.

Bartholomy said the BBB’s CEO for the San Francisco area, Lori Wilson, notified him early last month that she had suspended Wells Fargo’s accreditation following the accounts scandal. He said Wilson shared the information with him because of Wells Fargo’s large presence in Charlotte – its biggest employment hub, with about 23,000 workers.

At the time, Wilson also informed Bartholomy she would be recommending her board revoke Wells’ accreditation at its next meeting. Bartholomy said Wells Fargo lost its accreditation Sept. 16 and now has a “C-” rating.

On its website, the BBB cites “government action(s) against the business” for Wells’ loss of accreditation. The site lists five actions spanning to last year, including last month’s settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other government agencies over Wells’ sales practices.

Some other major banks don’t have BBB accreditation, such as New York’s Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, a search of the BBB’s website shows. Charlotte-based Bank of America has an A+ rating.

In addition to government actions against a company, 12 other factors go into the BBB’s ratings, according to the organization. Those include complaint volume, length of time a business has been operating and questions about the truthfulness of advertising claims.

Bartholomy said the government actions will remain on Wells Fargo’s record with the BBB for three years.

“There’s nothing they can do to cure this, so they’re going to be out for at least a three-year period of time,” he said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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