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Bank's actions have 'real-world' implications for consumers

Wells Fargo uses the six-horse stagecoach as its logo. The company's website describes the vehicles as "living symbols of the company's heritage of service, stability, and innovation." Its marketing videos usually feature one charging hard across an open field. After this week, some in Illinois might wonder if maybe the coach's final destination should be a barn or the wood shed.

As nearly every reader likely knows, this huge bank is in hot water in the wake of revelations that thousands of its employees opened millions of accounts for customers without their knowledge. It happened over several years and the bank's CEO told members of Congress this week that he's been aware of it since 2013.

The bank is under order to pay $185 million in fines, but the settlement doesn't include any acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Besides being outraged that upper managers responsible for the policies that triggered the activity have not suffered as a result, lawmakers noted many bank customers likely have been hurt. As one senator said at a hearing, "There's real-world implications here on young families, on old families."

The exact nature of those implications is unclear right now. Take credit scores. Analysts say some consumers could have seen their scores eroded by the issuing of cards they never asked for. If the bank now cancels those cards, that could hurt consumer scores again.

In the case of loans, those negatively affected credit scores might have resulted in consumers facing higher interest payments on money borrowed to buy cars or homes. The CEO says all will be made right, but it's not clear when or how that will happen.

That does nothing for individuals who may be in need of debt relief right now. Protecting yourself requires you to know your rights. And arranging for a free initial consultation with a skilled attorney is how to learn what your rights are.

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