Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Mr. Wells, Time to Go Back to Fargo

The Mercurious household has for many years banked with Wells Fargo.

Wait until I finish to call me an ignorant jackass.

I'll grant you there is no real reason for this banking loyalty except laziness and simple ennui.  For many years we banked with a very good local banking corporation known as Norwest, and when they were acquired by Wells Fargo a couple of decades ago, we just went along for the ride. And never bothered to dismount.

Wells Fargo has been known for years as one of the better (or at least less evil) giants of the big national banking conglomerates. It did not, for example, hang its tits fully out the car window in the outrageous mortgage debacle that threatened to bring down the entire US economy in 2008 and 2009, and overall it is viewed as the best managed of all the huge banking corporations. Seriously: that's its reputation.

That's not to say that Wells Fargo hasn't annoyed me. The fact they have gradually and systematically tried to increase the fees they charge to consumers for the right to hold their money and lend it out to others at 5 to 23% interest is pretty damned outrageous, after all. The not-insubstantial minimum balance I've graciously kept in their vault for 20 years has likely earned them many times that amount in credit card or mortgage interest charged to some other customer. And for funding them, they try to charge ME a fee.

But I understand that gone are the days of my youth, where the local hometown bank would at least give you utterly free checking simply because you were loaning them your money to fund their business.

And after all, you simply can't find a major bank anymore that offers this kind of old-fashioned customer service,  so I felt no reason to drop Wells Fargo. I mean, it served no purpose to give my money to Citicorp instead.

Another source of annoyance has been the fact that every single time I have business at the bank teller window, the Wells Fargo employee has ALWAYS tried to convince me that I should consider opening some kind of different, additional account. I mean this is pretty ludicrous, and I've told them as much:  what could be the possible purpose of opening a second savings account that gets .00000102% interest rather than the impressive .0000001% I'm already getting?  An extra .37 cents annually in interest is simply not worth the time to fill out the application. If you want a real laugh, look into the mutual fund offerings from a major bank. This is the reason why low-fee brokers like Vanguard are doing so well.

 Mrs. Merurious and I are not stupid, so of course the only cash we keep in Wells Fargo is the emergency, disposable fund balances—just enough to keep fees to a minimum—yet each time you approach a teller, they check your balance and if it reaches some kind of lip-smacking threshold, they try to talk you into stepping into the back room to discuss "options for your money."  It's gotten to the point where I preempt them by saying "No, I don't want to discuss options for my money. Let's discuss options for you to shut up and deposit these checks. "

Now, of course, we know why they've been doing this.  Those Wells Fargo employees have been offered incentives by management to talk poor schmucks into opening additional accounts of dubious or nonexistent merit. And in many, many instances, it appears they were going ahead to open those accounts without even permission on the part of the customer, simply to reap the in-house commissions. This is called criminal fraud, my friends.

It gets worse, of course. This is not a few bad-apple employees, but 5300 of them (that we know about so far) who did this illegal no-no and have been caught at it. All 5300 have been fired, of which 10% were the managers who either planned the fraud, actively looked the other way, or were too incompetent to have watch-dogged their direct reports. The head of the division that perpetrated this fraud, Carrie Tolstedt, recently retired with a $125 million bonus, proving that not only was she a criminal/incompetent, but her own bosses were, too.
Carrie Tolstedt, one of Wells Fargo's brightest stars. 

The truly scary part, of course, is that this is the banking corporation widely regarded as the best in the nation. What the hell then, is going on at JP Morgan, Citibank, Bank of America? One can only guess.

If Hillary Clinton has any brains at all, she needs to pick up at least this part of the Bernie Sanders platform:  the banking industry in America is an evil, greedy giant that will take us down if we don't do something quickly.

It's making my local Ben & Marvin's Credit Union and Barbecue Shack looking ever more appealing. At least their I get a free order with ribs for my minimum balance.


  1. Those pressure tactics at JP Morgan drove me out the door, more than ten years ago. I moved my IRA to Ohio Savings and Loan, which since is acquired by a New York bank. But, the incident that tipped the scale: standing in line to do banking, and a suit would come out of a cubicle and say come with me, I'll take care of that deposit. Seated in front of the desk, he would take the transaction to the counter, give it to a teller, thus jumping the line, come back to high pressure me, and then fetch my receipt for me. This happened several times before I caught on. The next time, I refused to leave the line, and explained why, to the young man and the person in front and behind me. When he persisted, I got very loud, and announced I was through with New York banks and was in line to withdraw every penny. The manager appeared, a nice woman, and tried to appease me. I would not be appeased, and left with a check closing my savings and checking. I went back the next day to finish closing my IRA's, and the manager did her best, but, as I said in farewell, in the middle of her lobby, I was done with New York bank, and on my way to a home town bank that would give me 4.25 on my IRA, no 4. This was when the slide began.
    I still dislike New York banks, on principle, but don't really know how to be shett of them.

  2. Simply thinking about the banking industry and their captains is enough to cause the blood to boil. Were we in a Dickens world with a national razor, bankers would be the first to the guillotine.

  3. I like my local small town banks. They know me personally and know I do not need or want anything unless I ask them about it. Some of them have a couple of other small town branches, but it is way easier to deal with local swindlers rather than national ones. If the local banks tried those shenanigans their officers would have a hard time getting out of town unscathed rather than retiring as obscenely wealthy people.

  4. I think some jail time would be in order for these scoundrels. But, we know that isn't going to happen. Too big to fail means too big to jail.

  5. Kudos for a well written and humourous post of a not so hunourous situation.

    I mostly have an online bank and a bricks and mortar bank on the side. The bricks and mortar place keeps putting accounts to sleep b/c I don't use them enough. Too lazy to switch though.

  6. Having banked with Wells Fargo when out west (after they purchased my local bank) I always appreciated working with them and had wished there was one in Michigan when I lived there. I was shocked by the news.

  7. I've had my best banking experiences with local credit unions. We did set up a joint account with Wells Fargo when our kids scattered off to colleges and lives all over the nation. When they needed cash, we could deposit it from here and they'd get it there. Worked good. Could've gone to B of A but I had a bad experience with them: from 1956 thru 59, Monday was bank day at my school and we little kids would turn in our dimes and pennies. 15 years later, I got out my old bankbook and found $4.35 in the account. B of A told me all those accounts had "been absorbed" by the bank. They stole from 1st,2nd and 3rd graders! Never dealt with them since.

  8. I just wrote a similarly scathing slam on Wells Fargo, too. The Big Banks are indeed evil, but there is one area where you failed to connect the dots....the relationship between the banks and the politicians, and yes, I'm sorry to say including Hillary Clinton. Did you know that Elaine Chao, wife of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been on the Board of Wells Fargo since 2011? I wonder how many other incestuous relationships exist between lawmakers and banks? Laws may be passed that will seem to slap down the banks, but it's all for show. There are loopholes embedded that will make sure the status quo is untouched.

    FYI, if you have access to USAA, I suggest you check out their banking services. No minimums, no fees, just good old fashioned banking. They're quite pleasant to deal with.

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