Wells Fargo goes from bad to worse

Wells Fargo bank may just win the worst PR of the year award for the announcement last year that many of its employees had set up huge numbers of fake accounts using the information of real customers. Now, though, it seems the company has followed that up by having to admit it may have accidentally closed or restricted real accounts as well.

Customers who own these accounts reported not being able to access funds that rightly belonged to them, according to a report in Reuters. This information was taken from a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filing that admitted Wells Fargo has found “several instances of customers reporting financial hardships” due to the unexpected closure of freezing of their account. Once again, these were accounts in good standing, apparently mistakenly blocked.

The reasons given for the closures in the complaints were broad, from identity theft reports to strange deposits. In some cases, the complaint wasn’t that Wells Fargo suspended the account due to suspicious activity, but that the bank refused to re-open the account – or open a new one – even though the customer was real and the account was later deemed legitimate.

Nearly all of the complaints about closed or frozen accounts had two things in common: confusion and frustration. Customers didn’t understand why their accounts remained closed, and they expressed frustration at the news that the accounts in question could not be reopened.

Reuters quoted one customer as explaining the complaint this way:

“I moved money from my mother’s savings account into her checking account the day before she passed away… This checking account has been ‘locked’ by the fraud department for almost 3 months … Now her debts are delinquent and mortgage about to go into foreclosure.”

All this person apparently wants to do is pay their deceased parent’s bills so they can move forward with the estate and property issues. Still, they can’t, and it appears they have yet to receive any remedy for the situation.

Speaking to Reuters, Wells Fargo spokesman Kristopher Dahl, said: “We continue to work with our regulator on this matter. As always, our goal is to protect our customers and the bank from fraud, and we want to do so in ways that minimize the risk and impact on our customers…”

At this point, though, there doesn’t appear to be any ideas forthcoming as to how Wells Fargo may deal with these complaints or any other similar issues. If this situation is allowed to continue to snowball, they could be right back where they were, or at least a close approximation to where they were, after the fake account scandal.

If the company wants to regain customer loyalty and prove the truth of what Dahl said, they need to act on this quickly, putting a clear and positive message out and dealing with the issues at hand.

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States.

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Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 175 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, was named to PR Week's "40 under Forty" list, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations" is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities.