Senators urge Justice Dept. investigation of Wells Fargo

By Kevin Zimmerman

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U.S Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are among 14 senators who have sent a letter to the Justice Department asking it to open a criminal investigation of Wells Fargo executives in the wake of the discovery that bank employees had opened millions of fake bank and credit card accounts.

“A bank teller that takes a handful of bills from the cash drawer is likely to face charges for theft and prison time,” they wrote, but “an executive who oversees a massive fraud that implicates thousands of bank employees and costs customers millions of dollars can walk away with a hefty retirement package and millions in the bank.”

The senators – led by Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii – are all Democrats except for independent Angus King of Maine.

Blumenthal and Hirono are also among 11 Democratic senators to sign a separate letter to Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and members of its board of directors. In it, the senators maintain that Wells Fargo’s actions may have violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, designed to protect military service members and their families from predatory financial practices.

“Combined, these abuses indicate that Wells Fargo has actually made it more difficult and stressful for our service members and their families by violating the very rights they have fought and continue to fight so hard to secure,” the letter stated. “We are also concerned about potential compliance issues related to the Military Lending Act,  including new rules that took effect on Oct. 3.”

Blumenthal is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and sits on its armed services committee.

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