Receiving Wide Coverage ...
Too much pressure: Wells Fargo's sales culture "rooted itself so deeply … that it eventually spiraled out of control," the Wall Street Journal reports. "Questionable sales tactics … were an open secret in Wells Fargo branches across the country," according to interviews the paper conducted with more than three dozen current and former employees, from area presidents down to tellers. "Many branch managers routinely monitored employees' progress toward meeting sales goals, sometimes hourly, and sales numbers at the branch level were reported to higher-ranking managers as many as seven times a day. Tension about how to meet the sales targets was common."
The motivation? "Bankers in branches who hit sales targets could earn bonuses of $500 to $2,000 per quarter, while district managers could get $10,000 to $20,000 a year."
The New York Times reports that Wells Fargo warned its employees more than two years ago not to "create fake bank accounts in the name of unsuspecting clients." It even deployed a team of "risk professionals" to stop the illegal activity. Yet the practice continued. "Three years after the first false accounts were exposed publicly and the authorities began investigating, Wells said it was still firing employees over the questionable accounts well into this year," the paper said.
Despite the warnings, Wells "continued to push the sales goals that caused employees to break the rules in the first place," former employees told the Times. "They warned us about this type of behavior and said, 'You must report it,' but the reality was that people had to meet their goals," said a former personal banker.
Wells Fargo is hardly alone in aggressively pushing bank accounts, the Washington Post reports. "Consumers have filed more than 31,000 complaints since 2011 about the opening, closing and management of their accounts and issues dealing with unauthorized credit cards," according to CFPB data. The complaints name many of the biggest banks. "The banks say many of the complaints are unfounded, or the result of identify theft," according to the paper. "But critics say consumers often are being steered into accounts and services they don't need," the Post reports, "fueled by a business culture that places unreasonable demands on employees to plug products in order to drive revenue at a time when banking margins are thin."
The Wells scandal proves like nothing else the need for the CFPB, the much reviled (by bankers and conservatives) federal agency, the Financial Times' companies editor, Brooke Masters opines. "Slowly, ever so slowly, the CFPB has been coming through for ordinary Americans," Masters writes. "The Wells Fargo scandal highlights the need for a consumer-focused watchdog. With political attacks on the CFPB looming ahead of US elections in November, the timing of this case could not have been better. Call it Dodd-Frank's revenge."
The New York Times hails the CFPB as a "hero" and laments that "congressional Republicans cannot stop bashing the bureau as a rogue agency unaccountable to the public."
Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway isn't buying Wells Fargo's apologies for the phony accounts scandal. The bank's full-page newspaper advertisements "ought to have offered plenty of room for groveling," she wrote." Instead the bank decided to use the space to tell cheated customers how marvelous it was." If she was a customer, "I'd be bridling at Wells Fargo's cheek in telling me that they have always been 'passionate' about my trust, when I'd just been taken for a ride."
American Banker looks at the question of clawing back pay.
Wall Street Journal
Capital questions: The U.S. Justice Department is asking Deutsche Bank to pay $14 billion to settle a mortgage-backed securities case, a figure the German bank said it has no intention of coming close to in a settlement. But even a $4 billion settlement "would put questions around capital position," JPMorgan Chase says. Observers say the final settlement, if one is reached, will be "significantly lower" than the $14 billion initial offer.
FastCompany.com: Ripple has been trying to develop an international money transfer system using blockchain technology "to make the transfer of money instant and cheap." But the going has been slow. Since launching four years ago, the company has signed up only 15 banks to its far-flung global network. And current methods of money transfer that don't use blockchain still can take a long time. "It takes JPMorgan Chase 1-2 days to send money from one of its client's accounts to an account at another bank using Chase Pay," Ruth Reader, writing on FastCompany.com's blog, notes. Venmo can take the same. "International remittances, Ripple's area of focus, can take anywhere from one to four days depending on how it is sent."
"Blockchain companies like Ripple hold a lot of promise for the future of banking, but the technology hasn't proven itself," Reader writes. Regulators are even further behind. "As long as regulatory bodies are unsure how to handle distributed ledger systems legally, banks may be wary to adopt it."