Bank Watch

Wells Fargo apologizes over Black Lives Matter debit card

Wells Fargo has issued a public apology to a customer who wanted to personalize her debit card with a Black Lives Matter design. Pictured: A man uses a Wells Fargo ATM in New York.
Wells Fargo has issued a public apology to a customer who wanted to personalize her debit card with a Black Lives Matter design. Pictured: A man uses a Wells Fargo ATM in New York. Bloomberg

Wells Fargo this week gave a public apology to a customer who wanted to personalize her debit card with a Black Lives Matter design – but the San Francisco-based bank also defended its reasons for rejecting the image.

The issue began when Rachel Nash, a Baltimore schoolteacher, tried to use a Wells Fargo website that lets customers customize their Wells debit cards to create a card featuring an image of a fist next to the words “Black Lives Matter.” But the bank turned down her design, telling Nash it was “anti-social or offensive,” Nash complained in a Facebook post last week.

Her rejection sparked national news coverage, including by The Washington Post and Essence magazine, at a time when the bank is already dealing with fallout from a fake-accounts scandal.

On Wednesday, Wells Fargo took to its “Wells Fargo Stories” website to issue an explanation for the incident.

In the posting, the bank said it rejected Nash’s design because it violated the bank’s policy that prohibits political images “in an aim to keep Wells Fargo products politically neutral.” The bank said its policy also prohibits the use of potentially trademarked or copyrighted images that may infringe the rights of third parties.

Wells noted that the policy affecting its “Card Design Studio” is consistent with that of other companies that offer similar services.

In the posting, the bank also said it has apologized to Nash for being told her design was antisocial and offensive. That explanation “fell short” and was a “mischaracterization of the reason for the decline that was unfortunately communicated to the customer in error,” the bank wrote.

In a statement emailed to the Observer, bank spokesman Kris Dahl said Wells “sincerely” apologizes “for our communication to Ms. Nash because it did not correctly reflect the reason for the decline and was counter to our commitment to treating our customers with respect.”

The bank respects customers’ rights to their opinions and causes, and Wells’ rejection or approval of an image is not “a reflection of Wells Fargo’s rejection or endorsement of the customer’s political view or cause,” Dahl said.

Wells Fargo also tweeted about the rejection Wednesday.

According to the bank, nearly 6 million of its customers have chosen to customize their debit and credit cards, with the most commonly submitted images being pets, family members and landscapes.

“The Card Design Studio service is not intended to be a forum for advocating political ideologies or other potentially controversial topics,” Katherine Yee, Wells Fargo head of debit and prepaid products, said on the Wells Fargo Stories site.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

  Comments