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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Wells Fargo's Rap Sheet is Long and Ugly

By: Donald V. Watkins

November 5, 2022

Since 2000, Wells Fargo Bank has violated federal criminal and civil laws on 228 occasions. The bank has paid $22,081,446,244 in penalties and fines for doing so. No Wells Fargo executive was prosecuted for this avalanche of lawbreaking.

In law enforcement jargon, Wells Fargo is a "habitual offender" with a rap sheet that is long and ugly.

If you or I broke federal banking laws on 228 occasions, we would be deemed “incorrigible” and labeled as a “career criminal.” We would be prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to long prison terms. The prosecutors and judges in our case would brag about how they protected society from dangerous criminal activity.

Wells Fargo Always Gets Away With Its Crime Sprees

The crimes committed by Wells Fargo include major felonies like bank fraud, price-fixing, bid-rigging and other forms of anti-competitive practices, money laundering, economic sanctions violations, toxic securities abuses (which is a euphemism for "securities fraud") and mortgage abuses (which is a euphemism for as “mortgage fraud).”

Click here to see Wells Fargo’s 228 violations of federal criminal and civil laws, as compiled by Violation Tracker. You can also review the details of each violation of law. You need to review all three pages of violations to get a full and complete picture of the 228 violations of law committed by Wells Fargo and its affiliates since 2000.

In each case, federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies simply fined Wells Fargo, and allowed the bank to moved on. Obviously, the government’s 228 symbolic slaps on Well Fargo’s wrist did not deter the bank and its top executives from continuing to engage in an ongoing criminal enterprise.

What is more disgusting is this equally disturbing fact: All of the big Wall Street banks have a comparable record of breaking federal criminal and civil laws with impunity.

When Wells Fargo, its Wall Street peers in the banking industry, and their top executives get caught committing serial felony offenses, they simply pay a fine and promise not to break the law again. The money for the fines is always passed on to their bank customers.

In 2020, Wells Fargo paid $3 billion to settle bank fraud charges arising out of a nationwide fraud scheme they ran from 2002 to 2016 in which the bank created millions of fake bank accounts to bilk customers out of billions of dollars in bank fees. No one at Well Fargo was prosecuted for this 14-year crime spree that was sanctioned by the bank's top executive officers.

As a result, Wells Fargo continued to implement new schemes to bilk its customers out of money. Today, Wells Fargo is under pressure from the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to pay more than $1 billion to settle a slew of investigations into customer mistreatment, according to Bloomberg News.

A Modern-day Untouchable

Wells Fargo, which is headquartered in California, is a publicly traded company that sells shares of stock on Wall Street under the ticker “WFC.” The bank is a major player in the financial services industry.

Since 2000, Wells Fargo has acquired Wachovia Bank, First Union Bank, A.G. Edwards, Prudential Securities, Strong Capital Management, Evergreen Investment Management Company, Ragen Mackenzie Investment Services LLC, and a host of related-affiliates. Wells Fargo’s culture of financial crimes has spilled over to its affiliate entities, as well.

Bank regulators and federal prosecutors are afraid to prosecute the CEOs of the so-called “Big Banks.” They enjoy immunity from prosecution, whether a Democrat or Republican president occupies the White House. In essence, Wells Fargo and its Wall Street peers are modern-day untouchables, and they know it.

Not one of the bank executives at the big Wall Street banks was prosecuted for running their banks into the ground during the Great Recession of 2008 and for losing $13 trillion in American wealth in the process.

In stark contrast to the U.S. Justice Department’s ingratiating treatment for this class of financial crooks, Iceland sent 26 top bank executives to jail for their roles in causing the 2008 global recession.

The Big Bankers Thanked Americans by Giving Us the Middle Finger

In 2009, President Barack Obama bailed out many of the big Wall Street banks with taxpayer’s money, which they promptly used to give themselves bigger bonuses. These bankers thanked American taxpayers for this generosity by giving us the middle finger and by finding new and creative ways to cheat their customers and hoodwink bank regulators.

Wells Fargo and other big Wall Street banks don’t pay any attention to federal prosecutors. The Big Banks routinely buy off federal prosecutors by giving them high-paying jobs when their careers in government are over or by allowing them handle legal cases for the banks after they join a private law firm. As such, federal prosecutors are not trying to bite the Wall Street bank hand that might feed them in the future.

Interestingly, the non-stop criminal conduct committed by Well Fargo and its Wall Street peers would never be tolerated by federal prosecutors if it was committed by one of America's 21 black-owned banks. Bank regulators and federal prosecutors would use a sledgehammer to punish any black-owned bank or black bank executive who committed just one of the 228 offenses on Wells Fargo’s rap sheet.

Just so that you know, Wells Fargo and other “Big Banks” in America own whoever is in the White House and most members of Congress. They control the very state and federal bank regulators who are supposed to "regulate" their business conduct. And, no U.S. Attorney General is going to prosecute Wells Fargo and its Wall Street peers for the bank fraud, wire fraud, bid-rigging, price-fixing, money laundering, securities fraud, mortgage fraud, or any other felony offense they commit on a routine basis.

These banks are viewed as too big to prosecute! They are truly above the law. This is the real reason why they are career criminals.

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Kamar Jones
Kamar Jones
Nov 05, 2022

I worked at this bank when it was First Union, then Wachovia and I can tell you that working at Merrill Lynch was far more unethical. These banks have become too big to fail. Not sure how to deal with it.

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