Wells Fargo is paying the Navajo Nation $6.5 million to settle allegations of shady sales tactics
Matt Egan, CNN Business
Published at | Updated at
(CNN) — Wells Fargo is paying the Navajo Nation $6.5 million to settle allegations the bank preyed on the Native American tribe by using shady sales tactics.
The agreement puts to rest a 2017 lawsuit brought by the Navajo Nation that accused scandal-ridden Wells Fargo of “predatory” practices, including opening fake accounts and pressuring elderly citizens who did not speak English to enroll in services they didn’t need.
“Wells Fargo’s predatory actions defrauded and harmed the Nation,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement on Thursday announcing the settlement. “This puts other companies on notice that harmful business practices against the Navajo people will not be tolerated.”
The Navajo Nation, which spans Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, had alleged in the 2017 lawsuit that Wells Fargo representatives “stalked local events” like basketball games and flea markets to sign up customers for “unnecessary accounts.” The “unlawful” sales tactics took place between 2009 and 2016, according to that lawsuit.
The settlement underlines the wide range of customers Wells Fargo has been accused of abusing. The bank has previously admitted to forcing borrowers into auto insurance they didn’t need and charging home buyers unnecessary mortgage fees.
That’s on top of the millions of fake bank and credit card accounts Wells Fargo has acknowledged opening. And Wells Fargo employees have accused the bank of retaliation, wage theft and fostering a toxic environment that led to severe anxiety and other mental health nightmares.
Wells Fargo is trying to move beyond the scandals by working to repair its reputation and relationship with customers.
“Our agreement with the Navajo Nation demonstrates our commitment to make things right regarding past sales practices issues as we continue the important transformation of our company,” the bank said in a statement.
Wells Fargo, the only national bank in the Navajo Nation territory as of 2017, said it looks forward to “continue building upon our long-standing relationships with the Navajo Nation and its members.”
Wells Fargo has been operating without a permanent CEO since April when Tim Sloan stepped down suddenly. It’s an unusually-long period of time for a major US bank to operate without a permanent boss. The bank’s board of directors has promised to hire an outsider, although leading shareholder Warren Buffett has suggested it shouldn’t be someone from Wall Street.
Wells Fargo still faces countless outstanding legal problems nearly three years after the scandal first began. The bank said in March that it is in talks with the Justice Department and the SEC about resolving investigations into the fake-accounts scandal.