Some employees in a Wells Fargo WFC -1.49% & Co. unit that handles business banking improperly altered information on documents related to corporate customers, according to people familiar with the matter.
The behavior again raises questions about Wells Fargo’s risk-management practices and controls. The bank has been sanctioned in recent months by federal regulators for problems in these areas and as a result can’t grow its balance sheet.
The employees in Wells Fargo’s so-called wholesale unit, which is separate from its retail bank, added or altered information without customers’ knowledge, according to the people familiar with the matter. The information added varied from social security numbers to addresses to dates of birth for people associated with business-banking clients, the people said. While the information in some cases can seem routine, employees are supposed to follow specific processes for how information is obtained or inputted into documents that are part of a regulatory process, some of the people said. Pulling information from older documents can also result in incorrect information being included, they added.
The behavior took place in 2017 and early 2018 as Wells Fargo was trying to meet a deadline to comply with a regulatory consent order related to the bank’s anti-money-laundering controls, the people said. The employees were also working to get documents in order prior to new requirements from another regulator for disclosures related to proof of beneficial ownership of businesses, the people added.
Wells Fargo became aware of the behavior in recent months from employees, the people said. After investigating, the bank discovered the behavior wasn’t an isolated incident, the people added. The bank is still investigating the matter, one of these people said.
Wells Fargo has reported the problem to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of its main federal regulators, the people said. That agency is probing the problem, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A Wells Fargo spokesman said the bank doesn’t comment on regulatory matters. He said in a statement: “This matter involves documents used for internal purposes. No customers were negatively impacted, no data left the company, and no products or services were sold as a result.”
The spokesman added: “Over the past several months we’ve built more robust internal processes that reinforce our values, and if we find any situations where behavior violates those values, we take swift action to correct.”
The altering of information within the business-banking division of Wells Fargo, which serves small firms with annual sales ranging from $5 million to $20 million, comes as the bank is continuing to grapple with the fallout from the sales-practices scandal that erupted in September 2016. That involved bank employees fabricating information to open as many as 3.5 million accounts without customers’ knowledge or authorization.
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