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Banks, Bankers & Breaking Bad | Elder Financial Abuse Stories

Banks Elder Financial Abuse.jpgWhen most of us hear the term "breaking bad," we think of the crime drama Breaking Bad. The drama ended in 2013 after a five-year run. Breaking bad is not confined to an award-winning TV series. The idiom of "break bad" means "to go bad." You don't have to read too many newspapers to see that many of America's banks and bankers are "breaking bad" in cases of elder financial abuse.

Wells Fargo is the smallest of the four largest U.S. commercial banks, and it seems to have the most scandals associated with customer deception. The list of scandals is long, but the flavor of wrongdoing is seen in just a few examples:

"In September 2016 the CFPB imposed a fine of $100 million against Wells Fargo in connection with the revelation that for years bank employees were creating more than two million new accounts not requested by customers, in order to generate illicit fees... In a separate case, Wells Fargo agreed to pay $50 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that the bank overcharged hundreds of thousands of homeowners for appraisals ordered after they defaulted on mortgage loans... In July 2017 it was revealed that more than 800,000 customers who had taken out car loans with Wells Fargo were charged for auto insurance they did not need."

While the Wells Fargo shenanigans reflected a "rot at the top," some 5,300 lower level employees were fired over the last few years for behavior related to the creation of millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts - without their customers knowing it.

Of course Wells Fargo is only one example. An unrelated bank manager in Oakland, California stole more than $2 million from mostly elderly clients. The former bank manager pled to five counts of elder theft and in late 2013 was sentenced to 12 years in California state prison. A Georgetown bank teller pleaded guilty in 2017 to stealing almost $200,000 from a homeless street vendor and using the funds to buy a home, go on vacation, and pay off other debts. An Ingleside, California, man and seven others were indicted and charged with accessing Wells Fargo customer account information and creating fake IDs in order to withdraw money from their Southern California, Minnesota and Nevada accounts.

Many of the victims in these cases are senior citizens who become the targets of financial predators. If banks "go bad," there are a number of governmental entities that move to remedy the wrongdoing, among them state and federal prosecutors, the Federal Reserve, FINRA, Freddie Mac, the SEC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When individual bank employees "go bad," local prosecutors enforce the criminal laws that were violated. If the employee's conduct also constitutes civil wrongdoing separate civil litigation prosecuted by private lawyers may take place in local trial courts.

The simple truth is that banks and bankers can "break bad." We have governmental institutions to help protect our citizens, but like in any human endeavor, those who choose wrongdoing can create a system failure. System failures that harm vulnerable elders are particularly troubling and demand accountability.

Hackard Law represents elders and their families in elder financial abuse civil cases in most of California's urban areas, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Alameda, and Santa Clara counties. If you would like to speak with us about your case call us at (916) 313-3030.

Banks, Bankers & Breaking Bad | Elder Financial Abuse Stories from Hackard Law on Vimeo.

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