On Tuesday, the Navajo Nation announced that it is filing a lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank for engaging in predatory and unlawful practices that targeted and harmed the Navajo people. The Nation has directed its counsel to seek restitution, damages and civil penalties based on Wells Fargo’s violations of federal, state, and tribal law.
“Wells Fargo’s exploitation of its customers has been well documented,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. “But even so, Wells Fargo’s actions toward the Navajo people have been of a uniquely outrageous nature.”
Attorney General Ethel Branch said, “Wells Fargo must be held accountable for its unfair and unlawful practices directed toward the Navajo people. Among their other despicable acts, the bank specifically targeted our most vulnerable population – our elders.”
As the Navajo Nation’s complaint alleges, Wells Fargo employees at branches on the Navajo Nation routinely misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts and obtained debit and credit cards without customers’ consent. Among the populations targeted by Wells Fargo, Navajo elders were purposely confused and deceived into purchasing products to help employees meet banking quotas. Wells Fargo went so far as to attend local Navajo community events, like flea markets and basketball games, in an attempt to sign Navajo people up for unnecessary accounts en masse—all to meet Wells Fargo’s sales targets. These practices were particularly harmful because Wells Fargo has such a strong presence on the Navajo Nation.
“Wells Fargo deceived the Navajo people and lied to the Navajo government causing substantial suffering to those who trusted the bank, and subverting the government’s ability to represent the legitimate interests of the Tribe,” said attorney John Hueston.
The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.