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California Investigates Whether Wells Fargo Committed Criminal Identity Theft

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a U.S. Senate Democratic candidate, has launched in investigation into allegations that Wells Fargo & Co. committed criminal identity theft when employees opened millions of accounts without customer consent.
Mark J. Terrill
/
AP
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a U.S. Senate Democratic candidate, has launched in investigation into allegations that Wells Fargo & Co. committed criminal identity theft when employees opened millions of accounts without customer consent.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris has launched an investigation into allegations that Wells Fargo & Co. engaged in criminal identity theft when the bank created millions of accounts without customer consent, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The report is based on a search warrant, served on Oct. 5 and first obtained by the Times, in which Harris' office demands the identities and account information of California customers who had "any accounts, credit cards, life insurance, or other product or service" created without the customer's authorization.

The warrant also demands the names of bank employees who opened the unauthorized accounts and the identities of the employees' managers, including "any and all communications, including email referencing" the bogus accounts.

Harris' office is seeking the same information for Wells Fargo customers who do not live in California.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general, Kristen Ford, said her office had no comment on an ongoing investigation. A spokesperson for Wells Fargo said the bank is "cooperating in providing the requested information."

In a 14-page affidavit filed with the search warrant, California investigators indicate that they are looking into potential violations of state law banning the impersonation of another and the unauthorized use of personal information, the Times reports. Both offenses are considered felonies.

The Wells Fargo account scandal resulted in a $185 million settlement with the Los Angeles city attorney's office and federal bank regulators in early September.

Last week, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf resigned a few weeks after the bank board required him to forfeit $41 million in unvested equity.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, is running for the U.S. Senate.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.
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