Bernard Wishnia and the Wells Fargo Scam




Kristýna Plíšková
Czech tennis player Kristýna Plíšková
Flickr-User: Robert Chapman

I have quite a number of readers who either alert me to news articles they wish me to cover or scams they wish me to uncover. Sadly I cannot entertain doing posts on more than a small percentage of these requests.

Some of my fans may have noticed that in numerous articles I have often acknowledged a mysterious reader called B.W. who contributed material such as information about the corrupt student loan industry in my article We Should not Help the Poor go to College, informed me about the recently enacted immigration directives of the Obama administration in my article Obama Administration Set to Deport Senior Citizens, asked Why We Lost the War in Vietnam, and even sent me explicit photos of ISIS Sex Slaves.

Well, it's time to reveal who reader B.W. really is. Of course I am doing this with his permission. B.W. is none other than Attorney Bernard Wishnia, a dear friend of mine, who has an office Roseland, New Jersey.

Back in 2009 Bernard asked me to write an exposé about the overdraft scam that Wells Fargo Bank was running at the time. This is how it works: assume you have $1000 in your bank account and you misjudged the amount of the checks you sent out or the timing of when they would come in. Then one day they all come into the bank at once and in this order: first a $5.00 check, then $10.00 and $20.00 and finally $996.00. Wells Fargo (and almost all other banks as well) would then pay first the largest check leaving you with only $4.00 left in your account thus causing overdrafts on the remaining three checks with fees of $25.00 each.

So at the end of the day you were $75.00 poorer and worse, having to explain to three people why you don't even have enough money in your account to cover a measly $5.00, $10.00 or $20.00.

The right thing would be to pay the smallest check first, then the next in amount, then the next. In this manner only one check would have resulted in an overdraft fee, leaving you only $25.00 poorer. This would be the better procedure for the customer but lousy for the banks.

Some banks charge even higher overdraft fees and such fees are the top money earner or in the top 3 of the highest earnings for the banking industry.

Unfortunately I never put the finishing touches to this article and a year later the topic became moot when Wells Fargo was found guilty of exactly what Bernard asked me to investigate:

Forbes, 11 Aug 2010, How Wells Fargo Cheated Its Customers

In a harshly worded decision issued late Tuesday afternoon, a federal judge in California ruled that Wells Fargo deliberately manipulated customer transactions in order to trigger overdraft fees. The bank was ordered to pay $230 million in restitution.

The ruling comes amid several federal decisions that have put overdrafts – a huge source of revenue for most banks – into harsh focus. Wells Fargo, like many other banks, routinely processes a customer’s largest purchases first, rather than running each transaction in the order in which it occurred. By doing so, it unfairly created situations in which a customer could be charged up to 10 overdraft fees of $35 for going over the limit by only a few dollars, Judge William Alsup ruled.

I'll be more diligent next time, Bernard.

Oh, by the way, if you are wondering what the photo above of Kristýna Plíšková has to do with Wells Fargo overdrafts: I love watching Czechs bouncing across a tennis court.



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