Wells Fargo bleeding continues: New account openings dive 41%

Buffett: Wells Fargo is 'a great bank that made a terrible mistake'
Buffett: Wells Fargo is 'a great bank that made a terrible mistake'

Wells Fargo continues to suffer repercussions from the bank's tarnished reputation in the wake of the fake account scandal.

New customer checking account openings plunged 41% in November compared with last year, the bank said on Friday. They fell 9% from the previous month.

That signals a continued slump after Wells Fargo's $185 million settlement on September 8 with regulators for illegal sales activity.

It's not a surprise, given that Wells Fargo's reputation with customers has tanked after the scandal, and allegations of mistreating employees. The drop in account openings can also be tied to the fact that Wells Fargo has scrapped the unrealistic sales goals that led workers to open several accounts for each customer. Many former workers say that was what led to the illegal tactics in the first place.

Another sign that Wells Fargo continues to struggle: Wells Fargo said customer interactions with branch bankers declined by 14% in November from last year.

"We know we have more work ahead of us," Mary Mack, Wells Fargo's head of community banking, said in a statement.

Mack, who replaced controversial executive Carrie Tolstedt in July, said during a conference call with analysts that account openings may have been muted by "seasonal" slowness caused by the Thanksgiving holiday in November.

"My No. 1 priority remains rebuilding trust," Mack said.

Wells Fargo said customer-initiated closures of checking accounts ticked up by 2% in November from last year. But that figure was down 13% from October.

Related: Wells Fargo scandal spreads to Prudential

In at least a couple of areas, things seemed to be stabilizing a tiny bit. While its new credit card applications plunged 45% in November from last year, they actually rose by 3% from October.

Wells Fargo also said that its customer loyalty scores increased slightly in November from October, though they remain down year-ago levels.

Overall, Wells Fargo listed 23.6 million primary consumer checking customers in November. That is up 3.5% from a year ago but flat with October.

Mack said she expects the growth rate to "continue to decline in the near term."

It probably doesn't help that more damaging allegations about Wells Fargo's practices continue to emerge.

Last week, a lawsuit filed against Prudential alleged that Wells Fargo employees appeared to have signed up customers for a low-cost Prudential life insurance policy without their knowledge or permission. Some of the insurance premiums may have come from dormant Wells Fargo accounts, according to the lawsuit, which was filed by former Prudential employees.

Wells Fargo has said it's "deeply concerned" by the allegations and is working with Prudential (PRU) to investigate.

And this week Wells Fargo was dealt another blow when it became the first bank to be penalized for failing to come with a post-financial crisis requirement of creating an adequate plan to dismantle itself in an orderly way in the event of a bankruptcy.

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