A single female in her 70’s suffering from cognitive decline has brought her own elder abuse claim against Wells Fargo. The claim is for the sum of $660k representing her life savings which she alleges advisors of Wells Fargo, along with it’s employees (up to 100) and her advisor of thirty years, Russell Wixon, a managing partner of Wells Fargo carried on financial elder abuse. The plaintiff is Karen Thompson and in November her lawsuit was transferred from state to California federal court. She alleges that due to her disability and age her vulnerability was exploited by fraudsters and as a result she wired her whole life savings (around $660,000) from accounts with Wells Fargo to Costa Rica. Thompson’s elder abuse claim (lawsuit) details Wells Fargo bank along with it’s employees, Wixon himself and the advisory firm allowed the fraud. This asides from Wells Fargo’s claims that advisors are “intimately acquainted” with clients’ concerns and financial goals. Those detailed also allowed the scammers to succeed irrespective Thompson had ten years of advisor relationships, twenty years with the bank and thirty years with Wixon.

In November 2016 the plaintiff uncharacteristically began withdrawing large sums of money. Those amounts varying from  $29,000 to $108,000 and from retirement accounts, then forwarding to her Wells Fargo bank checking accounts. By all accounts she would then visit Wells Fargo branch offices and instigate transfer of the sums to Costa Rica by wire according to her lawsuit and further she would repeat this pattern on 12 occasions. In her previous twenty years of banking at Wells Fargo Thompson had never sent money let alone large sums to third parties in foreign countries.

The elder abuse claim (lawsuit) details that the wire transfers and withdrawals constituted a profound change in her banking pattern. However Wells Fargo did nothing to stop it while the systematic thefts continued unabated until Thompson had been relieved of all her life savings. In response Wells Fargo defendants inclusive Wixon have denied all allegations. They also put forward that any harm suffered by Thompson was as a result of third parties and Thompson herself, not Wells Fargo, Thompson is described as single, living alone and with no dependent children.

Wells Fargo were also embroiled earlier this year in allegations brought by the Navajo Nation who filed a 17 count federal lawsuit. The lawsuit accused America’s third-largest bank of targeting Navajos, especially the elderly, minors, and those with a limited command of English, compounded by high pressure tactics in setting up unnecessary bank accounts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau back in September of 2016 cited that, for years, the bank had created fake accounts and signed customers up (without their knowledge) for their online banking services.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau along with numerous whistle blowers blamed the tactics on pressure to increase sales targets. The Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah covers 27,000 square miles and the Navajo nation population is approximately 340,000. Along with preserving it’s native language the Navajo is the largest tribe within the U.S. The Navajo (Diné) have words peculiar to themselves for more modern words and terminology such as catalytic converter and computer program. The government is is based in Window Rock, Arizona. The Navajo is recognised as a domestic, dependent nation complete with tribal sovereignty. Wells Fargo claim they have never engaged in these illegal practices in respect of the Navajo Nation.

In January Wells Fargo claimed that the sales practices as highlighted by The CFPB had not impacted the Navajo Nation. No members of the tribe in New Mexico and Arizona were harmed. There have been no Wells Fargo members who have had their employment terminated. The Navajo looked in to the five branches on tribal land in Tuba City, Kayenta, Shiprock, Chinle and Window Rock, Arizona and had determined that asides from illegal banking practices the nation’s most vulnerable had been targeted and that the action against Wells Fargo in part an elder abuse claim. Allegations further defined pressure on the elderly who did not speak English. The Navajo operate mostly as a cash society and the complaint goes on that the bank seized on the elders relative lack of ‘financial sophistication’ and often insisting elders open different accounts for utilities, food and routine expenses. Related reference.

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