SAN FRANCISCO—The city of San Francisco has removed Wells Fargo from their list of banks on their Bank On program, according to reports. San Francisco City Treasurer, Jose Cisneros pushed for the removal of Wells Fargo from the list after bank employees opened 2 million accounts for customers without their knowledge to hit sales goals.
“Customers walked into Wells Fargo looking for a bank account to keep their money safe,” Cisneros said. “That’s not what they got. Staff exploited their personal information without their consent. That is a practice that is truly deceptive, wrong and predatory.”
The Bank On program aims at helping low-income people or people with credit problems open checking and savings account. The program launched in 2006 and has helped tens of thousands of people annually open accounts with banks including Chase and Citibank.
“There is no justification for what happened,” said San Francisco Mayor Edward M. Lee. “The creation of bogus accounts is inexcusable.”
San Francisco officials are unsure of the number of residents who have been affected by the incident. Wells Fargo has docked $185 million in fines and settlement payments due to the incident. Cisneros has encouraged the 13 other cities with Bank On programs, such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and Miami, to also drop Wells Fargo from their lists.
Ruben Pulido, Wells Fargo Communications Manager, said in a statement, “We remain committed to addressing the needs of the underbanked and to collaborating with BankOn programs throughout the United States. It is disappointing that Mr. Cisneros has chosen to take an action that will only deter these efforts and impact those who need resources the most.”
Mayor Lee and Cisneros have both requested Wells Fargo to release the account information of holders who have been affected, the number of employees who have been terminated, and what corrective actions are being taken by the bank. So far, Wells Fargo has not responded to Mayor Lee’s request.
“#WellsFargo should immediately turn over the names of #SF victims,” Cisneros stated on his Twitter account on Friday, September 23. “You deserve help today from trusted @sfofe partners- not #WellsFargo.”
Wells Fargo first opened their doors on 1852 in San Francisco’s Financial District. According to reports, one complaint was that front-line employees at Wells Fargo were driven to unethical behavior due to the bank’s increasing sales demands.
“We’ve always worked to maintain a relationship with Wells Fargo,” Cisneros said. “But given all of this knowledge about widespread egregious and potentially criminal actions, I can’t say that we will maintain that relationship with Wells Fargo. I’ll be standing on the steps of City Hall Friday doing something we’ve never done before: announcing we are removing them from our list.”
There are free services from local financial consultant Balance to anyone who suspects they may have been a victim of Wells Fargo’s practices. Anyone wanting consultation can call (800) 706-6006. The Office of Treasurer and Tax Collector will also offer free credit counseling.
San Francisco News emailed Jose Cisneros for more information, but did not hear back before print.