Wells Fargo scandal may affect more than 60,000 Carolinas accounts

Published: Sep. 30, 2016 at 12:15 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (Rick Rothacker/The Charlotte Observer) - Wells Fargo said Thursday that as many as 60,000 accounts in North Carolina and South Carolina may have been opened without customer consent, shedding new light on the local scope of the fake accounts scandal that has rocked the San Francisco-based bank.

On Sept. 8, Wells agreed to pay $185 million in fines over allegations of "widespread illegal" sales practices that dated to at least 2011. Regulators said bank employees, racing to meet aggressive sales goals, opened 2 million accounts that may not have been authorized by customers.

In North Carolina, Wells said it cannot rule out the possibility that 38,722 accounts were unauthorized. In South Carolina the number was 23,327.

In North Carolina, 1,080 of the accounts incurred fees, which were refunded by the bank. In South Carolina, 763 accounts incurred fees that were refunded. The refunds averaged $25 per account.

"If even one customer received a product they did not request, it is unacceptable and contrary to our culture of doing what's right for customers," the bank said in a statement. "We regret and take full responsibility for the incidents in which customers received a product they did not request."

For the second straight week, Wells CEO John Stumpf appeared on Capitol Hill to apologize for the bank's actions and to take questions – and criticism – from lawmakers.

Some members of the House Financial Services Committee asked Stumpf how many unauthorized accounts may have been created in their states, and he provided answers at the hearing. The panel included three members from the Charlotte area – Republicans Patrick McHenry, Robert Pittenger and Mick Mulvaney – but none asked for Carolinas figures.

The bank provided the North Carolina and South Carolina numbers at the Observer's request.

Wells Fargo entered the East Coast through its 2008 acquisition of Wachovia. Charlotte is its East Coast retail banking headquarters and its largest employee hub.