Wells Fargo’s customer abuse—millions of phony accounts opened without retail clients knowing—appears to have started earlier than it was thought.
Earlier this month, Wells Fargo was fined $185 million for opening up nearly 2 million accounts without getting permission from customers. Wells Fargo revealed it has fired 5,300 employees who were found to have defrauded customers. The settlement went back to 2011.
But it now appears that Wells Fargo’s phony accounts began piling up years before than. Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf said on Thursday that the bank was extending its review of employees practices back to 2009. But even that may not be far enough.
At a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep, Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said that she has evidence the company’s misconduct reaches back to at least 2007. Indeed, it appears that Wells Fargo’s cross selling machine to push more customers in more accounts was up and running as early as 2009, and it didn’t sound like a new thing.
Back in 2009, Fortune wrote a feature story on Wells Fargo that noted how it was pushing to customers to open more accounts, and more successful at that than its rivals.
Wells, more than any big bank, makes its money by lending. It focuses on consumers and midsize businesses, which tend to be more profitable customers than Fortune 1,000 corporations that can raise money from many sources. And Wells relentlessly cross-sells everything, including credit cards and mortgages (to consumers) and treasury-management services and insurance (to businesses). Wells persuades each retail customer to buy an average of almost six products, roughly twice the level of a decade ago. Business customers average almost eight products per customer.