PORTLAND, Ore. -- Senator Jeff Merkley joined fellow United States Senator Al Franken in front of a downtown Portland Wells Fargo branch to blast what they call “systemic fraud” on the part of the giant bank.
The pair says the bank needs to take responsibility for opening some 2 million deposit and credit accounts without customers knowledge.
"So we're calling on the Justice Department to do that criminal investigation, not just for the CEO, but for the managers who were involved, hold them accountable."
Company CEO John Stumpf has already been grilled at a congressional hearing, but he has so far kept his job, along with millions in earnings.
KGW spoke with one former employee who described a high pressure sales environment in which managers turned a blind eye, and even encouraged fraudulent behavior, such as manipulating financial records on credit card applications.
Auburn Wise worked at the Stadium branch near Providence Park until she quit in May over what she said was unethical behavior that was ignored by management when she told them about it.
"There was constant pressure on numbers,” Wise said. “There is a lot of fraud going on."
Wise said one way managers made their sales goals was to falsify the number of active, open accounts. She said customers who directed accounts to be closed later learned they had been left open, with fees charged the entire time.
“The reason accounts would stay open is, in order to make their numbers, or get credit for new accounts, old accounts would have to stay open for 30 days, otherwise it would cancel out," said Wise.
A response from Wells Fargo Corporate Headquarters in San Francisco reads in part: "We take Congressional concerns very seriously. At Wells Fargo, our No. 1 priority is making things right with our customers and restoring public trust."
Many Wells Fargo customers, like Bonnie Kahn, are disillusioned.
"I've stayed with Wells Fargo because I'm loyal to them, but truthfully I feel they've let me down," she said.
Auburn Wise says at her branch, what she calls unethical sales practices victimized vulnerable customers.
“I saw a lot of people that were taken advantage of," she said.