Wells Fargo seeks arbitration order in customer lawsuit over improper sales practices


Wells Fargo & Co. wants a federal court judge in Utah to order that customers suing the banking giant over improper sales practices submit their claims to binding arbitration.

The San Francisco-based company’s request applies to a class-action lawsuit filed initially by three Utah residents who at one time had accounts with the bank.

They sued Wells Fargo in September, one week after the bank made headlines for agreeing to pay $185 million to settle allegations that its workers opened millions of accounts without customers’ permission to reach aggressive sales targets.

The class-action complaint, which alleges breach of contract, fraud and other claims, now includes 80 named plaintiffs.

In a filing Wednesday to U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups, Wells Fargo asserted that the plaintiffs agreed to submit any disputes to arbitration when they signed up for Wells Fargo checking accounts, credit cards or other services.

The lender also asked the court to allow it to gather more information on 22 of the plaintiffs so that the company can determine whether they should also be included in its request to have plaintiffs’ claims deal with via arbitration.

Additionally, Wells Fargo asked Waddoups to dismiss the lawsuit, in case the company’s bid for an arbitration order fails.

The lawsuit is just one example of the extent of the fallout over Wells Fargo’s sales practices scandal, which led to the abrupt retirement this month of the bank’s CEO, John Stumpf. Wells Fargo also faces several other lawsuits, as well as criminal investigations by the Department of Justice and the California Attorney General’s Office.