California launches Wells Fargo criminal investigation over fake accounts

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Wells Fargo bank teller machines are seen in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 10, 2013.   REUTERS/Robert Galbraith /File Photo - RTSS8SO

Wells Fargo bank teller machines are seen in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 10, 2013. Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters

The California Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Wells Fargo, which was fined $185 million for illegal banking practices last month, the The Los Angeles Times reported.

The investigation is based on charges of criminal identity theft over the creation of unauthorized accounts. Since 2011, Wells Fargo employees created 2 million bank and credit card accounts in customers’ names without their consent.

The search warrant, obtained by the Times and dated Oct. 5, demanded the bank turn over the identities of California customers who had bank accounts opened without their consent, any fees associated with the fraudulent accounts, as well as the names of the employees who opened the accounts, their managers and the sites that they worked at.

The warrant also demands the same information for any fraudulent accounts, regardless of the location of the customer, that California-based employees opened.

As noted by the Times, it’s not yet clear whether the California Department of Justice will look to bring charges against Wells Fargo, employees who opened the accounts or executives who had such practices occur under their watch.

Regulators say that Wells Fargo employees were under unfair sales pressures. As New York Times reporter Michael Corkery told PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill last month, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf wanted each bank customer to have eight accounts or products with Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo chief John Stumpf apologized before Congress Tuesday for the bank opening two million unauthorized accounts. Regulators say workers were under sales pressure, but Stumpf said it was not a scheme. More than 5,000 workers have been fired; lawmakers suggested the bank’s CEO is the one who should pay the price. Gwen Ifill talks with Michael Corkery of The New York Times. Video by PBS NewsHour

Just last week, Stumpf stepped down as CEO and Chairman of Wells Fargo after intense pressure from lawmakers to resign.

READ MORE: Embroiled in scandal, Wells Fargo CEO resigns

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