Navajo Nation Wells Fargo Lawsuit Could Get Ugly

Navajo Nation files 50 million dollar lawsuit against Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo may very well be the largest bank in America but that has not stopped the Navajo Nation from filing a lawsuit against them claiming alleged predatory tactics.

According to the suit filed yesterday, Wells Fargo has been in violation of federal state and tribal law, “engaging in predatory and unlawful banking practices” when dealing with tribal members and they are demanding restitution and damages.

“Wells Fargo’s exploitation of its customers has been well documented,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. “But even so, Wells Fargo’s actions toward the Navajo people have been of a uniquely outrageous nature.”

There are five different Wells Fargo banks situated on Navajo Nation land, which spans more than 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometres ) over parts of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico.

Anybody who works in the banking industry, or any customer service driven industry will attest to the pressure applied by bosses when it comes to meeting sales quotas, which is one of the main reasons why the turn-over rate in the customer service job industry is so high.

Navajo Nation alleges gross mistreatment by Wells Fargo employees

There are a lot of alligations made in the suit, some of which are laid out below.

Bank employees “opened accounts for underage Navajo citizens, going so far as to falsify birthdates to avoid obtaining necessary parental consent.”

The suit alleges that the bank mislead Navajo elders into purchasing banking products simply in order for the employees of the bank to meet their selling quotas.

Employees “routinely misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts and obtained debit and credit cards without customers’ consent,” the suit alleges.

If even one of these alligations is true, there will be a lot of trouble on the way for the big bank.

Wells Fargo spokesman Jim Seitz states that the company can not comment on ongoing litigation: “Over the past year we have taken significant steps to make things right for our customers, including members of the Navajo Nation, who may have been affected by unacceptable retail sales practices,” he said.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in New Mexico, said “since at least 2009 and continuing through 2016, Wells Fargo employees at branches on the Navajo Nation routinely opened unauthorized savings and credit accounts, misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts, obtained debit cards without customers’ consent, and enrolled customers in online banking without proper consent.”

“This shows a specific targeting of an ethnic community in the United States and, within that, subgroups of vulnerable Navajos,” said John Hueston, a Los Angeles attorney representing the tribe. “It’s a level of exploitation of a vulnerable community that has not surfaced in other cases to date.”

Wells Fargo deceived the Navajo people and lied to the Navajo government causing substantial suffering to those who trusted the bank, and subverting the government’s ability to represent the legitimate interests of the Tribe.”

If Wells Fargo are found to be liable when it comes to this lawsuit, they may have to pay out over 50 million dollars.

President Trump is not the biggest fan of Wells Fargo right now either, after evidence that the bank was playing dirty when it comes to mortgage lending became public and he has stated that penalties against them could be substantial.

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About the Author: Brad Bennett

Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada's most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca