Iowa Attorney General investigating Wells Fargo over unauthorized accounts

The office has joined other states in the investigation

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The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is investigating Wells Fargo after its employees opened up millions of unauthorized accounts.

“I think it’s pretty clear that opening accounts in people’s names without their authorization or knowledge would be an unfair, deceptive act or practice,” said Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan, who works with the office’s Consumer Protection Division.

Last September, Wells Fargo disclosed that employees had created about two million accounts without the consent of customers. The scandal, which began with a $185 million fine and thousands of fired employees, has continued to develop with Wells Fargo naming a new CEO, Congressional hearings, a recently settled class-action lawsuit and multiple government agency investigations.

The San Francisco-based bank also has said it would stop enforcing sales goals, which were widely blamed for encouraging the creation of fraudulent accounts.

Two weeks ago, the bank increased its estimate of the number of potentially unauthorized accounts created to 3.5 million.

“Wells Fargo continues to work hard to make things right, build a better bank and earn back the trust of our customers, team members, investors, government leaders and the American public. Although we’ve made significant progress in transforming our operations, there still is work to do as we address the issues and remediate the impacts to customers resulting from past unacceptable retail bank sales practices,” Wells Fargo spokesman Steve Carlson said in an emailed statement.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office joined a multistate investigation just weeks after the initial disclosure, Madigan said.

“We have two goals when we do our cases. Every case is different. One of the goals is there’s a monetary penalty because of the behavior here and the egregious nature of it. The second is that it not happen again,” he said.

Madigan said he did not have an up-to-date estimate of how many Iowa accounts were affected by Wells Fargo’s actions. He declined to comment on the other states involved in the investigation.

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan told the Des Moines Register’s editorial board last November the company had found more than 12,600 accounts in Iowa that may have been unauthorized. The bank did not have updated numbers as of Monday.

Wells Fargo has about 16,000 employees in Iowa. Its home mortgage division is based in West Des Moines.

l Comments: (319) 398-8366; matthew.patane@thegazette.com

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