Tester, Banking Committee members press Wells Fargo for answers on scandal

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) speaks during an interview with Reuters in Billings, Montana August 16, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Missoula Current

Sen. Jon Tester is asking the Wells Fargo Board of Directors to respond to questions about the bank’s ongoing fraud investigation over deceptive sales practices, which were unveiled in early September.

Tester, D-Montana and a member of the Senate Banking Committee, also has created a portal for constituents to submit stories, questions and concerns regarding the bank’s scandal if they believe they’ve been affected.

In a letter to the bank and its board last week, Tester and eight other U.S. senators requested documents and information which the bank’s former CEO and chairman John Strumpf has failed to provide.

“As you know, continued failure to answer questions – especially basic questions – about the causes and consequences of the fraud that Wells Fargo permitted for many years does nothing to restore the trust of Wells Fargo’s customers and shareholders, many of whom are our constituents,” Tester wrote.

The letter asks that the Wells Fargo Board answer the Senate Banking Committee’s questions, including who’s leading the investigation, why the investigation wasn’t launched earlier, and what the board is doing to ensure systematic fraud and abuse doesn’t happen again.

Tester said the letter follows an earlier missive sent by he and his colleagues back in September, and includes similar questions that the bank has so far failed or refused to answer.

Tester first questioned former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf back in September during a Banking Committee hearing. The hearing was called after it was discovered that the bank had opened over 2 million deposit and credit card accounts without customers’ knowledge, and 5,300 bank employees were terminated over the course of several years.

“Fifty-three hundred people is more people than live in most towns in Montana,” Tester told Stumpf during the hearing. “Two million is twice the population of the entire state. This is a major screw up that went on for far, far, far too long.”

Earlier this month, Tester introduced legislation to ensure Wells Fargo victims could seek justice through the courts.

Known as the Justice for Victims of Fraud Act, the measure will retroactively apply a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule to Wells Fargo’s victims that allows them to seek their day in court, even if they signed a contract that restricts them to forced arbitration.

“It is unacceptable that Wells Fargo is hiding behind fine print and denying folks the ability to seek justice for the bank’s fraudulent actions,” said Tester. “Wells Fargo’s irresponsible and reckless business model has put people’s credit at risk, and in some cases may have caused irreversible damage. Wells Fargo must clean up their act.”