Wells Fargo & Co. was sued by Los Angeles for allegedly opening accounts and issuing credit cards without customers' authorization as part of what the city called a "fee-generating machine."
The bank set unrealistic quotas for the number of banking products its employees must sell, which pressured them to resort to abusive and fraudulent tactics to meet their sales targets, Los Angeles said in a state court complaint filed Monday.
"Wells Fargo puts unrelenting pressure on its bankers to open numerous accounts per customer," the city said. "Wells Fargo's bankers are thus naturally and predictably forced to alternative means to meet quotas."
Customers are falsely told that they only can get a checking account if they also obtain a savings account, credit card and other products such as life insurance, Los Angeles said. Bankers also impersonated customers to enroll them in online banking and falsely told customers that additional accounts wouldn't have monthly fees, the city said.
The bank's customers are harmed because they are charged fees on the unauthorized accounts, their credit reports are affected, which can have a negative impacts on car loan and mortgage applications, and they are forced to get identity theft protection, the city claims.
"We will vigorously defend ourselves against these allegations," Ancel Martinez, a spokesman for San Francisco- based Wells Fargo, said in an e-mail. "Wells Fargo's culture is focused on the best interests of its customers and creating a supportive, caring and ethical environment for our team members."
Los Angeles seeks a civil penalty of $2,500 for each violation of California's Unfair Competition Law.
The case is the People v. Wells Fargo & Co., BC580778, Los Angeles County Superior Court.