AFR Statement: Wells Fargo’s Latest Attempt to Get Away with Fraud

Once again, Wells Fargo is using forced-arbitration “ripoff clauses”  buried in the fine print of customer contracts to try to shield the company against accountability for widespread misconduct. Even as the Senate weighs action to block a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule restricting this practice, Wells Fargo is seeking a federal appeals court’s support for the company’s claim that the only way for consumers to challenge alleged wrongdoing is one-by-one in a secret arbitration process – a process so tilted in the financial industry’s favor that the average consumer ends up being ordered to pay her bank or lender $7,725.

“This Wells Fargo case is yet another demonstration of the harm consumers will suffer if Congress chooses to repeal the CFPB arbitration rule and restore bank’s ‘get out of jail free card.’” said Lisa Donner, Executive Director for Americans for Financial Reform. “It is also yet another reminder why lawbreaking banks are pushing for the rule to be overturned: blocking consumers right to go to court makes it easier for them to rip people off.

Wells Fargo customers in Dolores Gutierrez, et al. v. Wells Fargo Bank claim the bank illegally reordered their debit card transactions to charge multiple overdraft fees for one overage. In 2011, Bank of America settled similar class claims for $410 million; in 2012, JPMorgan Chase settled for $110 million. Years later, Wells Fargo is the last bank to resist, by relying on forced arbitration to avoid returning money to its customers. The CFPB arbitration rule will not apply to pending litigation, but it will restore consumers’ rights to join together in class actions and help prevent more bank misconduct in the future.