Wells Fargo has built their business on defrauding customers. Under intense sales pressure from top executives, Wells Fargo employees have opened 3.5 million fraudulent customer accounts, taken out more than 500,000 secret auto insurance policies, and charged military veterans hidden fees to refinance their mortgages. Their long history of wrongdoing extends back years, with multiple settlements but little accountability for the perpetrators of this criminal behavior.
People have defaulted on their loans and had their vehicles repossessed because of Wells Fargo. Lives have been altered and personal finances have been ruined. Despite this, we are still lacking an honest and full accounting of the extent to which Wells Fargo’s fraud impacted their customers. The process of determining what fraud was committed, and against how many individuals, has been publicized in fits and starts, at times even after settlements have already been reached. Piecemeal admissions of guilt seem to distract from and facilitate still greater abuses against unsuspecting customers. Enough is enough.
From the time that the Glass-Steagall Act was signed into law at the height of the Great Depression, the U.S. banking system achieved a remarkable period of stability that lasted more than sixty years. By separating investment and commercial banking, individuals finances were protected while the economy grew. The Glass-Steagall Act’s repeal helped to precipitate the 2008 financial crisis, which wiped out the life savings of millions of Americans. Millions of jobs were lost, families lost their homes, and the banks deemed “too big to fail” received a taxpayer-funded bailout that helped spur their growth as middle-class families were left behind. Today, the banks deemed “too big to fail” in 2008 are even larger, and they wield undue influence over our national economy. Consumers have little recourse against the fraudulent abuses brought upon them by banks like Wells Fargo.
Returning our economy to work on behalf of all Americans starts with breaking the influence Wall Street currently holds over our economy as well as our political system. That means breaking up Wells Fargo and the other financial giants. We must reinstate a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act and allow for smaller banks to once again compete against the financial giants. Only by returning power to consumers will we be able to reverse the income and wealth inequality that has harmed the American middle class for decades. It is time for Congress to get back to working on behalf of the people we are here to represent.
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