Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Wells Fargo's 2017 Silver Lining Is a Drop in Consumer Complaints

Updated on
  • CFPB complaints fell 18% vs 2016, best among 10 biggest banks
  • Capital One posted the biggest rise as most lenders saw a drop

Wells Fargo & Co. spent much of 2017 trying to dig out of several consumer banking scandals. By one measure, it’s making progress.

Complaints lodged against the lender with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through Dec. 15 dropped 18 percent from the same period of 2016, the steepest decline among major banks, federal figures show. Still, it remained first among that group in total complaints.

The drop came despite the bank announcing that employees opened more fake accounts than previously thought and that it will compensate customers who were wrongfully charged fees for extending low mortgage rates or for auto insurance they didn’t need. The bank even caught the ire of President Donald Trump, who tweeted last month that it may face even higher penalties for “bad acts against their customers.”

“We have taken a number of steps over the last year, including eliminating product sales goals in our community bank, intensifying our focus on customer experience, proactively refunding customers who may have suffered harm as a result of inappropriate practices, enhancing our risk management organization, and holding executive leadership accountable for issues when they arise,” Richele Messick, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Fewer Unhappy Customers

While most big banks saw complaints drop, Wells Fargo had the sharpest improvement

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation

Note: Complaints filed in 2017 vs 2016, Jan. 1 - Dec. 15

Seven of the 10 biggest banks by U.S. deposits experienced a drop in CFPB complaints compared with the 2016 period, including Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Bank of America Corp.

Capital One Financial Corp. had the biggest increase in complaints with a 36 percent jump. The lender, which has a large credit-card business, also had the most filed per dollar of deposits, a gauge favored by LendEDU, a New Jersey-based student-loan marketplace.

Still, Capital One had the lowest share of complaints that resulted in refunds or credits, as less than 2 percent brought about so-called monetary relief, according to the regulator’s data. On average, about 14 percent of complaints filed last year against the 10 banks resulted in monetary relief.

"We take all customer concerns very seriously and continue to pay close attention to these complaints so that we can make good decisions to remediate any issues and further differentiate our customer experience," Amanda Landers, a Capital One spokeswoman, said in a statement.

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