Wells Fargo says 3.5M accounts involved in scandal

FILE - In this May 6, 2012, file photo, a Wells Fargo sign is displayed at a branch in New York. Wells Fargo said Tuesday, March 28, 2017, it will pay $110 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over up to 2 million accounts its employees opened for customers without getting their permission. (AP Photo/CX Matiash, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The scope of Wells Fargo’s fake accounts scandal grew significantly on Thursday, with the bank now saying that 3.5 million accounts were potentially opened without customers’ permission between 2009 and 2016.

Wells Fargo also acknowledged that roughly half a million of the newly discovered accounts were missed during the original review of the years 2011 to 2015 when the bank admitted the scandal nearly a year ago.

After Wells Fargo said last year that its employees under pressure to meet aggressive sales targets had opened up to 2.1 million accounts between 2011 and 2015 without getting customers’ permission, evidence quickly appeared that the bank’s sales practices problems dated back even further.

So Wells Fargo last year hired an outside consulting firm to do an analysis of 165 million retail bank accounts opened between 2009 and 2016.

The firm found that, along with the 2.1 million accounts originally disclosed, 981,000 more accounts were found in the expanded timeline of 2009 to September 2016, Wells said. And roughly 450,000 accounts were found in the original window.

Of the 3.5 million accounts potentially opened without permission, 190,000 of those incurred fees and charges, Wells said. That’s up from 130,000 that the bank originally said. Wels Fargo will refund $2.8 million to the affected customers, in addition to the $3.3 million the bank already agreed to pay.

In addition, Wells admitted that 528,000 customers were likely signed up for online bill payment without authorization as well. The bank will refund $910,000 in fees to those affected customers.

“To rebuild trust and to build a better Wells Fargo, our first priority is to make things right for our customers, and the completion of this expanded third-party analysis is an important milestone,” Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan said in a statement.

Wells Fargo has been trying to repair its reputation since the admission about the possibly fake accounts last fall. The company ended up paying $185 million to regulators and settled a class-action suit for $142 million.