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Wells Fargo may have created 3.5 million unauthorized accounts: lawyers

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Wells Fargo & Co may have opened as many as 3.5 million unauthorized customer accounts, far more than previously estimated, according to lawyers seeking approval of a $142 million settlement over the practice.

The new estimate was provided in a filing late Thursday night in the federal court in San Francisco, and is 1.4 million accounts higher than previously reported by federal regulators, in what became a national scandal.

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Keller Rohrback, a law firm for the plaintiff customers, said the higher estimate reflects “public information, negotiations, and confirmatory discovery.”

The Seattle-based firm also said the number “may well be over-inclusive, but provides a reasonable basis on which to estimate a maximum recovery.”

Wells Fargo spokesman Ancel Martinez in an email said the new estimate was “based on a hypothetical scenario” and unverified, and did not reflect “actual unauthorized accounts.”

Nonetheless, it could complicate Wells Fargo’s ability to win approval for the settlement, which has drawn opposition from some customers and lawyers who consider it too weak.

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco is scheduled to consider preliminary approval at a May 18 hearing.

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The accounts scandal mushroomed after Wells Fargo agreed last September to pay $185 million in penalties to settle charges by authorities including the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Wells Fargo employees were found to have opened the accounts in part because of pressure to meet sales goals.

John Stumpf and Carrie Tolstedt, who were respectively the San Francisco-based bank’s chief executive and retail banking chief, lost their jobs and had tens of millions of dollars clawed back over the scandal, and 5,300 employees were fired.

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The $142 million settlement covers accounts opened since May 2002. Wells Fargo originally agreed to pay $110 million covering accounts since 2009, but boosted the payout after discovering more problems.

Keller Rohrback said the settlement “fairly balances the risks” of further litigation, including the possibility their clients might lose, against the benefits.

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The accord has drawn objections from law firms including Heninger Garrison Davis, from Birmingham, Alabama.

It said the accord underestimated the potential maximum damages by at least 50 percent, and did not properly address whether Wells Fargo committed identity theft by using customers’ personal data to open the accounts.

Lawyers from the Alabama firm did not immediately respond on Friday to requests for comment.

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(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)


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2020 Election

Trump advisors futilely trying to get him to stop ranting about statues as his re-election prospects collapse: report

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According to a report focusing on Donald Trump's rally at Mt. Rushmore on the evening before the 4th of July, advisors to the president ate attempting to get him to start focusing on bread and butter issues that will get him re-elected instead of harping on statues being pulled down by protesters across the country.

As the Daily Beast report illustrates, their efforts appear to be futile based upon his Friday night speech.

With the president trying to fire up the crowd by insisting, “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders. They think the American people are weak, and soft, and submissive,” the Beast reported that Trump, "decided to focus heavily Friday evening on protesters and Black Lives Matter activists who want various American monuments, including those honoring Confederate, white-supremacist, and slave-owning figures of history, torn down and destroyed for good. "

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Trump’s a traitor — and the Russian bounty scandal is the final straw

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The first story of the rest of Donald Trump's life was published last Friday in the New York Times, revealing that the Russian intelligence agency known as the GRU has been paying bonuses to Taliban fighters to kill Americans, and that this intelligence had been reported to Trump and had been known at least since March. The story was subsequently confirmed by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the AP.

This article first appeared in Salon.

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2020 Election

GOP scrambling to pay for Jacksonville convention after Trump yanked it from North Carolina: report

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According to a report from the New York Times, Republican officials are having difficulties getting donors to pay for the Republican National Convention to be held in Jacksonville, Florida after Donald Trump yanked the gathering out of Charlotte, North Carolina in a fit of pique over COVID-19 health restrictions.

At issue, the report notes, is that millions of dollars were spent in North Carolina where a smaller event will now be held, and now the party is, in essence, forced to pay for a second convention.

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