Former Wells Fargo customer Shahriar Jabbari filed a lawsuit against the bank Wednesday accusing it of high-pressure sales that led to deceiving and defrauding him and other customers. The suit alleges violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and California's unfair competition and consumer protection laws.
Jabbari, of Campbell, Calif., seeks class-action certification for the lawsuit. The complaint mirrors accusations in another lawsuit filed last week by Los Angeles (Calif.) City Attorney Michael Feuer.
Both lawsuits allege that the bank's pressure tactics amounted to a "fee-generating machine" that encouraged employees to misuse customer information to open unwanted accounts. Some customers never realized they had the accounts until collection agencies began pursuing fees, according to the suit filed last week, that also alleges the bank hid fees, refused to close accounts on request and forged signatures.
Last week, Wells Fargo officials stated the bank would defend itself vigorously, describing its culture as focused on the best interests of customers and "creating a supportive, caring and ethical environment for our team members."
On Wednesday, Wells Fargo challenged Jabbari's assertion that a Wells Fargo database called ClientTrack makes sensitive customer information accessible to all bank employees, enabling them to open new accounts for existing clients without the customers' authorization.
"We do not have a system that matches the description in the complaint," a spokesperson said. "And all our systems are designed to comply with applicable laws, including privacy laws."
Jabbari alleged that debt collectors badgered him to pay fees on Wells Fargo accounts that were opened without his knowledge. His lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, seeks restitution from the profits Wells made from the "unlawful practices." It also seeks triple damages.
The complaint includes detailed allegations about Wells Fargo's so-called gaming of customers and alleges that a current Wells Fargo employee saw bank employees open unauthorized accounts on a "nearly daily basis."Jabbari's suit alleges that soon after starting banking with Wells Fargo in 2011 he began noticing anomalies, such as unwanted fees. In 2013, according to the complaint, he visited a Wells Fargo branch in Los Gatos, Calif. to ask about an unauthorized charge. At that time, an employee showed him how accounts had been opened in his name using a signature that was not his, according to the suit.
Jabbari said he discovered that seven accounts had been issued without his permission. A few months later, the lawsuit alleged, he received a change of address notification showing several accounts that he had not opened and that he thought had been closed.