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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/16/12

Three Strikes and Wells Fargo Should Be Out -- with America!

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Wells Fargo's First Strike was their miserable attempt to refuse us a loan modification, telling us that they were not participating in the Federally-funded program to achieve such needed mortgage restructuring -- when in fact they were full participants and had taken all those Federal dollars to boot.   We managed to force them to keep their word only after I complained to the Chief White House economist, son of a former colleague of mine in graduate school, and the Secretary of the Treasury. But Wells Fargo's grave reluctance to honor their own commitment to loan modifications was disgraceful.


Wells Fargo's Second Strike was their misbegotten attempt to impose a debit card usage fee on its Bank customers such as us, to try to make up for losing part of a former unjustified debit card fee imposed upon merchants, which had been properly limited by Congress.  Even though WF had near-record earnings in 2011, they still wanted to gouge their own loyal customers.   After public outrage, to which I was proud to contribute, that wrongful fee was rescinded, not only by WF but by nearly all of the mega-banks pulling that stunt.


But now -- watch out for that windup and fast pitch by Wells Fargo -- comes the worst gouge of all, because it affects most WF Bank checking account customers like us. WF wants to go national with a large monthly fee on small depositors unless they agree and can afford to go through WF's hoops, sort of making us into trained dogs and turning WF into Pavlov.


Here is how our local Wells Fargo Bank office here in North Georgia has mishandled the matter of this new, excessive, abusive, customer-unfriendly checking account fee -- $15 monthly on our "Complete Advantage" account (which must be the least-truthful name in the entire history of banking):   After speaking briefly with local manager Cliff, a hard man to reach, I called back five days later when he broke his promise to call or email me promptly regarding the fee, after speaking with his regional boss.   I had proposed reducing the monthly fee to $4 and allowing various options for avoidance, such as having any WF mortgage, whether or not linked to our particular WF bank account (how I pay my mortgage is my own business, not Wells Fargo's.)

Jennifer at the local office told me Manager Cliff was out of the office for the next two days and his phone does not have voice mail (is Wells Fargo in the 21st century at all?)  So, I asked for his email address (usually on WF business cards) but Jennifer said she could not give that out, so instead she offered to send Manager Cliff an email asking him to email me (of course, I had to go through the issue again -- this time, with her.)   And, of course, I have yet to hear back from Manager Cliff, or anyone else at Wells Fargo Bank.


Here, then, is the one-time proposal, from this retired professor of Money and Banking, to resolve this matter by compromise; this proposal was emailed to a host of WF execs from CEO John G. Stumpf, through their investor relations, media relations, and other sections (this is the exact wording of the proposal, which was intended to open discussion at WF):

" If you reduce the monthly account fee to not more than $4, and waive that fee for any customers with a "banking relationship" of $25,000 or more with Wells Fargo (including bank accounts, mortgage, and/or other loan relationships), you will be doing yourselves, your firm, and the American public a good turn . In this tough economy, and in view of the Occupy Movement's protest of such fees and charges as this one, the ill-will you will receive from the imposition of this fee would far outweigh the extra revenue you secure -- not to mention that many of us will just move our accounts elsewhere. Let me know by the Ides of March, March 15, 2012 , if you will take that positive step of fair compromise recommended above .    Here is an opportunity to do the right thing, not only for America, but for Wells Fargo and its Bank as well. Carpe Diem -- seize this opportunity.  Respond now."


Wells Fargo's total refusal to even consider this serious, fair, well-designed proposal --indeed, their refusal to even acknowledge it -- represents Wells Fargo's Third Strike  -- which is not only a strikeout with us loyal WF customers, but with America as well!   As for us, we are moving our bank account out of this miserable, rude, unfriendly bank.   WF's local staff do not do their jobs of handling customer inquiries promptly and professionally, and WF's top executives do not care about much of anything beyond their excessive salaries resulting from gouging us, their own customers.  Hence, America and Americans should consider ceasing to do business with Wells Fargo and Wells Fargo Bank, and all of the other mega-bank abusers.


It was not so long ago that hundreds of billions of Federal dollars were used to save such mega-banks from the consequences of their unwise sub-prime loans and other improper actions.   Those funds were taken eagerly by the recipients, while they promised America that banking behavior would change -- and perhaps it has, but not necessarily for the better.   There are plenty of community banks, credit unions, and other locally-based institutions which are eager to hold our accounts, make fair loans, and treat us with the respect which we deserve.   While many of our small accounts may not be the most profitable for the mega-banks, they are still the backbone of our banking system -- indeed, an essential ingredient of it.  It's time to switch to financial intitutions in which we can believe, and which believe in us.

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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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