Wells Fargo loses overdraft fee case

By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Wells Fargo was ordered to pay more than $200 million in restitution to California customers for manipulating and multiplying overdraft fees, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup of Northern California, in his 90-page ruling Tuesday, said Wells Fargo used "a bookkeeping device" that turned one instance of overdrawing an account into as many as 10, allowing the bank to multiply the number of fees it could collect from a single mistake.

"The bank went to considerable effort to hide these manipulations while constructing a facade of phony disclosure," he said.

The ruling said Wells Fargo (WFC, Fortune 500) must pay $203 million in restitution to California customers for its liberal use of $35 overdraft fees. This is a fraction of the $1.8 billion in overdraft fees that the bank collected in California from 2005 to 2007, according to the court.

"The revenue generated from these fees has been massive," wrote the judge.

The ruling concluded a two-week bench trial that ended May 7.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Richele Messick said that her company was "disappointed" with the judge's ruling.

"We don't believe it's in line with the facts of the case and we plan to appeal," she said.

Paul Miller, analyst for FBR Capital Markets, said that Wells Fargo's handling of the overdraft fees was "always a questionable practice" that has been "going on for years."

But he said that in the future, bank fees are going to become "more up front than back door," especially in the wake of financial reform.

"I think with financial reform in general, a lot of these practices are going to change anyway," he said. "The government is going to take a really hard look at this stuff."  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,122.01 15.31 0.09%
Nasdaq 4,569.62 -1.02 -0.02%
S&P 500 2,000.12 0.10 0.00%
Treasuries 2.36 -0.03 -1.25%
Data as of 11:34pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.20 -0.13 -0.80%
Apple Inc 102.13 1.24 1.23%
Facebook Inc 74.63 -1.33 -1.75%
Yahoo! Inc 38.18 0.39 1.03%
Pfizer Inc 29.49 0.28 0.96%
Data as of 4:02pm ET

Sections

Staggering interest from the Chinese in an immigration program has led the U.S. to run out of available visas for the first time ever. More

Former Fed chief Ben Bernanke believes the 2008 financial crisis was the worst in global history, topping even the Great Depression. More

Snapchat has gotten a $20 million funding round from Kleiner Perkins, valuing the company at $10 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. More

Utah State professor Michael Glauser cycled 4,000 miles this summer, visiting 100 entrepreneurs across the country. Here's a snapshot of how they grew their businesses. More

Five CNNMoney readers share stories about saving that you can learn from: What they would do differently if they had another chance. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.