Media Reports on How Wells Fargo’s Arbitration Clauses Might Block Consumers from Obtaining Compensation

Here is the Consumer Reports story.  Excerpt:

If a bank employee opens fake accounts and credit cards in your name, as recently happened at Wells Fargo, you may be charged fees for those fake accounts, which you didn't pay because you didn't know the accounts existed. And since you didn't pay those fees, your credit report and your credit score could be hurt. 

And there may not be a whole lot you can do about it.

That's the problem now facing many Wells Fargo customers. Over the course of five years, Wells Fargo employees opened as many as 2 million fake accounts in the names of Wells Fargo customers and made millions in profits for the company by charging customers overdraft fees, monthly service fees, annual fees, finance charges, interest charges, and late fees on those phony accounts. 

But customers lose their right to a trial in court over the creation of those phony accounts and the damage done to their credit if a pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clause was included in their customer agreement.  

Wells may end up being the poster child for the CFPB's arbitration rule. WaPo weighs in with an article headlined Why Wells Fargo customers won’t be able to sue the bank over fake accounts.  An excerpt:

One major group directly affected by the Wells Fargo scandal — the customers who had fraudulent accounts opened in their names — may have their hands tied.

As lawmakers pointed out at congressional hearings Thursday and last week, many Wells Fargo customers are blocked from suing the company because of arbitration clauses, little-known contracts that often ban customers from taking part in class action lawsuits. They are regularly included in the fine print for checking accounts, credit cards and other consumer products. 

In the case of Wells Fargo, the arbitration clauses that customers agreed to when they opened their real accounts are being used to keep them from suing about the fake accounts opened in their names.

In a terse exchange during Thursday’s hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.) pushed John Stumpf, the chief executive, on whether the bank would waive the clause for affected customers.

Stumpf defended the arbitration process, calling it “fair” and saying that consumers would be directed to mediators.

But Sherman asked the executive to be more direct about whether customers have the ability to challenge the company in court.

“If they want to go to court are you going to let them go to court? Yes or no?” Sherman asked.

“No, but …” Stumpf responded before being interrupted by Sherman, who said he understood that the answer was no.

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