WASHINGTON — Consumer banking giant Wells Fargo was ordered to pay $3.7 billion in fines and refunds to customers by U.S. government regulators, the largest fine to date against the bank, which has spent years trying to rehabilitate itself after a series of scandals tied to its sales practices.
The amount is nearly quadruple the previous $1 billion penalty that Wells Fargo paid in 2018 to cover widespread consumer law violations.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Tuesday ordered Wells to repay $2 billion to consumers and enacted a $1.7 billion penalty against the bank. The bureau spelled out a laundry list of consumer financial law violations, from illegal fees and interest on auto loans and mortgages, as well as incorrectly applied overdraft fees against savings and checking accounts.
The bureau says the bad behavior by the bank impacted more than 16 million customers.
Wells Fargo has been repeatedly sanctioned by U.S. regulators for violations of consumer protections law going back to 2016, when Wells employees were found to have opened millions of accounts illegally in order to meet unrealistic sales goals. Since then, Wells has spent its time saying it’s cleaning up its act, only to be repeatedly fined for additional violations of consumer protection law.
The bank remains under a Federal Reserve order forbidding it from growing any larger until the Fed deems that its corporate culture problems are resolved. That order, originally enacted in 2018, was expected to last only a year or two.
In a statement, CEO Charles Scharf said the agreement with the CFPB is part of the effort to “transform operating practices at Wells Fargo and to put these issues behind us.”
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