An open letter to Wells Fargo customers
Dear Wells Fargo Customers,
In America, we have faith that when we open up a checking account, we aren’t opening ourselves up to being scammed. Whether you use a local credit union or community bank or one of the big national chains, we take it for granted that those institutions are fulfilling this basic responsibility to their consumers.
That’s why I was deeply disturbed when, last week, we found out that Wells Fargo had engaged in widespread illegal practices over many years. The bank secretly opened up millions of accounts for customers without their consent — betraying their customers, misusing their personal information and leading many to be slapped with unjust fees and other charges. Today, Wells Fargo’s CEO will appear before Congress. He owes all of you a clear explanation as to how this happened under his watch.
There is simply no place for this kind of outrageous behavior in America.
Our economy depends on a strong and safe banking system to help keep it moving. But even after Americans spent years working hard to recover from the Great Recession, the culture of misconduct and recklessness that preceded that crisis too often persists.
I have a plan to address it.
First, we need to defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The unfair and abusive practices at Wells Fargo remind us that we need tough watchdogs looking out for customers. The CFPB worked with local authorities and enforced the law — assessing its highest penalty ever, and bringing the bank’s illegal activity into the national spotlight.
Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and Wall Street lobbyists are desperate to dismantle this effective agency, which is dedicated solely to protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. I won’t let them put the CFPB under their thumb. I’ll protect the CFPB and make sure it can continue its essential work on behalf of the American people.
Second, we need real consequences when firms on Wall Street break the law. This past week, we learned that one of the Wells Fargo executives that oversaw the division that ripped off its customers left the bank — not with a pink slip, but with a $125 million payout. It’s hard to imagine that top executives were unaware of a problem that involved thousands of the firm’s employees. After all, they imposed sales targets and compensation incentives in ways that led to this behavior. And it’s frustrating that a bank can simply pay a fine and keep doing business as usual — with massive compensation for the executives responsible. That compensation should be clawed back.
I’ve put forward an agenda to enhance accountability on Wall Street. Executives should be held individually accountable when rampant illegal activity happens on their watch. Their compensation should take a hit if their companies pay major fines. And they must face appropriate legal consequences if they break the law.
Third, we need to make sure that no financial institution is too big to manage. I’ll put additional safeguards in place to address the risks that the big banks continue to pose to our system. And if any bank can’t be managed effectively, it should be broken up.
I’ll appoint regulators who will stand with taxpayers and consumers, not with big banks and their friends in Congress. I’ll fight hard to make sure that Wall Street is working for Main Street — not the other way around.
We need to keep pushing to make the financial system safer and fairer. Let’s do it together.