Workers tell Wells Fargo Horror Stories
(CNN MONEY) Relentless pressure. Wildly unrealistic sales targets. Employees leaning on family members and friends to open unnecessary bank accounts.
That's how more than a dozen former Wells Fargo employees described the bank's culture to CNNMoney.
Wells Fargo (WFC)has been accused by federal regulators of illegal activity on a stunning level.Authorities say employees at the bank secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts between 2011 and July 2015, allowing the bank to make more money in fees and meet internal sales targets.
Wells Fargo agreed to pay penalties of $185 million and fired 5,300 employees over the last few years related to this illegal activity. The news is rocking the industry and rippling across Wells Fargo's millions of customers nationwide.
Former employees tell CNNMoney that they felt incredible demands from managers to meet sales quotas. The same managers turned a blind eye when ethical and even legal lines were crossed.
"I had managers in my face yelling at me," Sabrina Bertrand, who worked as a licensed personal banker for Wells Fargo in Houston in 2013, told CNNMoney. "They wanted you to open up dual checking accounts for people that couldn't even manage their original checking account."
Currently a middle school teacher, Bertrand said she believes the sales targets were set by managers who were higher up: "The sales pressure from management was unbearable."
The pressure cooker environment is also described in a lawsuit filed by Los Angeles against Wells Fargo in May 2015. The lawsuit says that Wells Fargo's district managers discussed daily sales for each branch and employee "four times a day, at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm."
It all stems from Wells Fargo's internal goal of selling at least eight financial products per customer. It's what Wells Fargo calls the "Gr-eight initiative." Currently, Wells Fargo boasts an average of about six financial products per customer.
In pursuit of this goal, Wells Fargo employees engaged in all kinds of sordid practices. One of them was internally called "pinning," where the bank issued ATM cards and assigned PIN numbers without customer authorization.
The bankers would impersonate their customers and "input false generic email addresses such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure the transaction is completed," the lawsuit said. The customer, meanwhile, remained completely unaware of the unauthorized activity.