Complaint centers on opening of unauthorized accounts


FARMINGTON — Wells Fargo Bank wants a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Navajo Nation last year over alleged unfair banking practices and fraudulent activities against tribal members.

The motion to dismiss comes two months after the Navajo Nation alleged Wells Fargo and Company and Wells Fargo Bank N.A. deceived tribal members by opening multiple accounts without authorization and used sales tactics to pressure others into increasing bank account services.

In its Dec. 12, 2017, complaint, the tribe identified 17 bank branches in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah that allegedly engaged in such activity toward tribal members.

In the motion filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico on Monday, Wells Fargo argued the tribe has no standing for 16 out of the 17 claims named in the lawsuit, and several claims have been addressed in the $100 million fine issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in September 2016.

In a statement to The Daily Times on Friday, Wells Fargo stated its No. 1 priority is to make things right for customers.

The company stated it reached a class-action settlement agreement that will set aside $142 million for customers and said it covers concerns about unauthorized accounts dating back to 2002.

"We have taken significant steps to make sure that each customer affected by unacceptable retail sales practices has every opportunity for remediation, and we will continue to work directly with our customers to address any concerns," Wells Fargo stated.

The settlement agreement has received preliminary approval and is scheduled for a final approval hearing on March 22, according to court documents.

"Wells Fargo targeted the Navajo people with practices that were egregious and illegal. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo continues to refuse taking responsibility for these acts," Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement to The Daily Times on Friday.

Begaye added the tribe is confident its attorneys will succeed in pursuing the matter and "justice will prevail."

If the court does not dismiss the case, Wells Fargo seeks to suspend the Navajo Nation's power to act as a guardian for tribal members because it says the tribe lacks the right to file claims for members under federal and state consumer protection statutes.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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