There was a burst of righteous populist anger anger last week, when it emerged that Wells Fargo had engaged in pervasive, “massive” fraud since at least 2011, including opening credit cards secretly without a customer’s consent, creating fake email accounts to sign up customers for online banking services, and forcing customers to accumulate late fees on accounts they never even knew they had. For this criminal conduct, Wells was fined $185 million (including a $100 million penalty from the CFPB, the largest penalty the agency has ever issued). In all, Wells opened 1.5 million bank accounts and “applied” for 565,000 credit cards that were not authorized by their customers.
As “punishment” Wells Fargo told CNN that it had fired 5,300 employees related to the shady behavior over the last few years. The firings represent about 1% of its workforce and took place over several years. The fired workers went to far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the CFPB said. What was hushed away is that not a single employee will go to prison, and that ultimately it will be Wells Fargo’s shareholders – such as Warren Buffett – who will end up footing the bill.