Wells Fargo faces criminal probe for alleged identity theft

PTI New York | Updated on January 16, 2018

Wells Fargo bank teller machines are seen in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith /File Photo

Wells Fargo, under fire for creating two million unauthorised accounts for its customers, is under a criminal investigation in California over alleged identity theft, the Los Angeles Times reported.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris ordered the third-largest US bank by assets to provide a trove of information, including the identities of the California customers who had unauthorised accounts opened in their names and those of the Wells Fargo employees who opened them, the newspaper said, citing a search warrant served October 5.

Harris wants to know whether Wells Fargo violated California laws prohibiting certain types of impersonation and the unauthorised use of personal information, according to the newspaper.

Both violations can be charged as felonies, punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, the newspaper noted, adding that it was not clear whether Harris’s office is considering charges against individual bank workers, high—level bank executives or the bank itself.

Confirming it had received a request for information, a Wells Fargo spokesman told AFP: “We are cooperating in providing the requested information.”

Representatives of Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wells Fargo, whose biggest shareholder is billionaire Warren Buffett, has been reeling since US and California regulators disclosed in September some two million deposit and credit card accounts were opened in customers’ names between 2011 and 2016 without their approval.

Wells Fargo paid a fine of $185 million for the fake accounts and fired some 5,300 mid- and low-ranked employees linked to them.

The scandal led to the resignation of chairman and chief executive John Stumpf last week. He was succeeded as CEO by president and chief operating officer Tim Sloan, a 29—year company veteran, who promised transparency and tighter oversight.

An internal Wells Fargo inquiry is also under way.

The San Francisco-based bank is under investigation by the Justice and Labor departments and could face lawsuits from shareholders and customers.

Some US states, including California and Illinois, have cut ties with the bank.

Published on October 20, 2016

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