Staff Editorial: Criminal action needed against former Wells Fargo employees

Over the course of five years, Wells Fargo employees have been creating fraudulent personal identification numbers (PIN) and email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services and apply for credit cards without their consent. Although almost 5,000 former employees have been fired, individuals involved in the scandal should face criminal charges for the inexcusable actions they have committed.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a website dedicated to state legislatures, the maximum punishment for identity theft is a year of prison, a fine of no more than $2,500, or both. If identity theft constitutes imprisonment, why are the former Wells Fargo employees not behind bars? If anything, more action should be taken since credit fraud is no better than identity theft itself.

Moreover, Wells Fargo began firing employees as early as 2011 because of this scandal, an indication that Wells Fargo has known about the creation of fraudulent accounts all this time. Yet, only now has the general public become aware that such a crime was committed. The bank had a great deal of time to warn customers and prevent this debacle but failed to do so.

Although Wells Fargo has been fined $185 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in addition to paying $5 million in customer refunds according to CNN Money, this is a minuscule amount for a multi-billion-dollar company to pay for its crimes. The bank was named “Most Valuable Bank” in 2015 by the Wall Street Journal and, with a staggering amount of $300 billion in shares, Wells Fargo should pay more in penalties and even more to the affected victims.

There were over two million fraudulent accounts created but, in total, only five million will go towards reimbursing the victims.

Additionally, the CEO remains employed by Wells Fargo, as do the members of the board of directors. None of these upper level officials have suffered any penalties for the crimes committed against their customers. These people should be facing criminal charges or, at the very least, lose their jobs.

The Department of Justice should be held responsible as well. It should have launched an investigation the moment this scandal came to light.

Admittedly, Wells Fargo may never return to its reigning rank, but pity should not be shown for the bank. The quiet termination of employees does not show that the bank is taking full responsibility for this scandal.

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