ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is demanding damages from Wells Fargo after an investigation showed the financial institution created nearly 19,000 fake and unauthorized bank and credit card accounts in the state.
Balderas on Wednesday accused Wells Fargo of victimizing New Mexicans. If a resolution can’t be reached, he said he’ll pursue litigation.
“When New Mexicans choose a bank, especially one with a national reputation, they deserve to be treated fairly and honestly,” Balderas said.
Wells Fargo was rocked last year by a nationwide scandal over practices in which employees created millions of accounts without customers knowing about or authorizing them to meet ambitious sales goals.
A Wells Fargo’s chief executive apologized most recently during an October congressional hearing. The company also has changed its sales practices and ousted executives.
Michael English, a spokesman for Wells Fargo in New Mexico, said the company has taken significant steps to make things right for customers. He pointed to a nationwide class-action settlement agreement that will set aside $142 million for customer remediation and settlement expenses.
Wells Fargo is also completing a third-party review of accounts dating back through 2009 to determine potentially unauthorized accounts and provide refunds and credits to affected customers.
“We continue to welcome – and encourage – customers with questions or concerns to contact us,” English said.
The attorney general’s investigation has focused on potential violations of the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act.
According to Balderas’ office, when individual customers attempted to sue Wells Fargo in the past, the bank pursued arbitration. The resulting customer agreements contain clauses that prevent individuals from suing the bank for fraud or wrongdoing.
Balderas said the arbitration clause does not prevent his office from taking action to protect consumers.