Wells Fargo “collected millions of dollars in fees and interest to which [it] was not entitled, harmed the credit ratings of certain customers, and unlawfully misused customers’ sensitive personal information,” according to the Justice Department, which announced on Feb. 21 that the banking company has agreed to pay an additional $3 billion to settle potential charges stemming from its unauthorized creation of several million customer accounts between 2002–16. Fees and penalties in relation to this scam alone had already totaled more than half a billion dollars.
Good news, right? That looks like accountability, and $3 billion is a lot of dough. But that $3 billion represents only a small part of the bank’s takings from just this one scam—customer money to which, by its own admission, it “was not entitled.” From that perspective, the DOJ basically caught a gang of thieves and let them scoot right back to their den with most of the loot. Worse still, criminal prosecutions—for a bank that openly admits it stole money from its own customers—are off the table for now: “The criminal investigation into false bank records and identity theft is being resolved with a deferred prosecution agreement in which Wells Fargo will not be prosecuted during the three-year term of the agreement.”