Pass bill on Wells Fargo
Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf assured members of Congress this year that his bank would strive mightily to make consumers whole following his company’s outlandish abuse of its customers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had discovered that Wells Fargo had opened new accounts for thousands of customers without their permission, and then assessed millions of dollars worth of fees and penalties on them without their knowledge or consent.
Mr. Stumpf ’s promise to justly compensate victims failed to stand up to legislators’ grilling, however. They pointed out that some of the bank’s fees and collection activities had damaged customers’ credit, for example, and that the bank could not simply walk that back.
And despite the bank’s promise to fairly treat its victims, it has invoked the forced arbitration clauses in its contracts with customers to prevent them from taking their claims to court — the only place where they can get a fair hearing and an impartial adjudication of their claims.
To rectify that, a group of senators, including Sen. Bob Casey of Scranton, has introduced the Victims of Fraud Act of 2016. It would allow victims of the fraudulent account scheme to bypass the arbitration clauses and file suit against the bank in federal court.
Congress should pass the law as a simple matter of fairness to the bank’s victims, who need a playing field far more level than that offered by forced arbitration.