A rare class-action victory over Wells Fargo's fake accounts proves binding arbitration sucks

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/29/fake-judges-suck-too.html


This one’s been argued back and forth, so I’m asking if anyone has a final, definitive answer: is the company saying that, or is it saying that the customers aren’t allowed to sue because they did actually sign binding arbitration agreements when they knowingly opened their original, legitimate accounts before they were fraudulently signed up to extra, fake accounts?

I mean, either’s bad, but the former is a whole league of worse, plus would demonstrate a cosmic amount of brass neck on the part of Wells Fargo.

(Or is it a particularly Machiavellian Catch-22: you can’t go to court to prove that the company forged your signature on a binding arbitration agreement because it has what appears to be your signature on a binding arbitration agreement.)


Correct, the company’s argument is that since the customers agreed to binding arbitration when they knowingly opened the legitimate accounts, that agreement covers any subsequent dispute they may have with WF, including this one.

What Cory said is a great exaggeration, no court would ever hold someone to the terms of an agreement that was fraudulently signed in their name, because the fundamental elements of a contract are lacking.


Is this really a “class action victory”? Per the article, the lower court ruling that barred suit because the customers agreed to binding arbitration when they opened their legitimate accounts, will stand. Given that they would have appealed to the 9th circuit, it seems likely they would have gotten a favorable ruling and a good precedent for future class action suits. But with the settlement that opportunity is gone…

Wells Fargo, don’t get me started…

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I find it interesting that when someone raises a question about one of his statements regarding DRM, Cory appears in the comments within seconds to defend his position, but despite being queried about it several times, he refuses to respond to the challenges about his frequently-repeated “they claim that forged signatures are legally binding” claim

I believe this is the fourth article in which he has posted this claim. None of his cited sources have included that claim, so it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Cory is just making it up out of whole cloth in order to make Wells Fargo look worse (as if they needed any help in that regard). @doctorow, would you care to provide a citation backing up this particular claim you’ve been making?


It’s not a “great exaggeration.” It’s a bald-faced lie, as has been pointed out to him every time he repeats it. And yet he keeps repeating it.

That marks him as roughly as trustworthy and honest as Wells Fargo.


Yeah, maybe I was being too polite…

Unfortunately this is not the pendulum beginning to swing the other way, this is just another egregious act by a financial institution highlighting the pressure points of class waivers for arbitration.

I’m sure in his mind he thinks he’s helping in that his claim makes Wells Fargo’s abhorrent organized criminal enterprise sound a tiny bit worse by ignoring that detail since most Boing Boing readers never click into the comments section. But whether they come here or not, it’s really unwise to assume your readers won’t figure it out for themselves whether they’re commenters or not. And if they realize they can’t trust you on the less important details, they’re going to doubt you on the big ones. Which hurts the cause and everyone else involved because Wells Fargo did commit a massive organized criminal fraud, and they’re largely getting away with it in that it was ultimately profitable for them and the executives who took their golden parachutes and escaped prosecution, and the doctrine that fine-print binding arbitration agreements for one service or account surrenders rights to sue for anything ever is absolutely insane.

On top of that, it ignores another really important problem, namely that corporations claim that signing a binding arbitration agreement forces their customers to surrender all rights to sue them for anything ever no matter what they do. And every corporation does that, not just the ones that commit organized fraud, so it’s a big fucking problem that needs attention. Attention Cory is, I’m sure with the best of intentions, taking away by saying they did something slightly different.

But no, that’s a false equivalence. Wells Fargo committed at least two million acts of financial fraud causing people to lose their jobs, homes and livelihoods. @doctorow repeats a lie he wrongly believes helps the cause he supports, that of financial reform. It’s not even in the same league of dishonesty.


I agree with you 100%, especially your point about how the issue needs attention. Which is why I wish this had gone to appeal instead of settlement…

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Wells Fargo already look like avaricious dipshits by claiming that the arbitration clause that was legally signed for the account that the customer did want to open covers the account they fraudulently opened. There’s no need to claim that they faked the signature on the arbitration clause.

(Also, I realise that, legally, WF might be correct and that the arbitration clause is in force no matter what criminal behaviour they get up to, but morally, and in terms of PR, they’re wrong.)

Quick question, does the arbitration go both ways? If Wells Fargo have a legal issue with a customer do they have to go through arbitration rather than straight to court? If so, what if a customer attempted to rob them?

If a customer robbed them, the state would probably initiate a criminal case. But, if WF wanted to pursue some kind of civil complaint in addition, they might have to go through arbitration as well; it depends on how the clause is written. Of course they would have the “home field advantage” if they did…

To cut Cory some slack, Naked Capitalism is very much a political site. It’s not meant to serve as a non-partisan, carefully fact-checked, purveyor of facts. It’s meant to incite outrage and action by movement followers. Without a little embellishment, plain old facts rarely push people to do anything.

So think of it more as a political rally, and less like a left leaning newspaper.

In other words, unlike me, Cory would rather do some good in this world than be entirely factually correct…

This is an interesting notion that being intentionally dishonest is “doing some good in this world.”


“So we can believe the big ones?”


Terry Patchett, Hogfather

Of course, by saying that the truth is not the ultimate arbiter of good, I do not mean that it has no value. It’s just not the ultimate value.



Given the state of public affairs in the US, it should be readily apparent that attempting to counter a relentless onslaught of lies with facts didn’t get the job done.

Sadly, all that’s left is to fight fire with fire by diving into the gutter with the scum. The fourteen people left who are actually interested in facts are free to wade through the noise to see whose side reality is on.

I think that’s pushing it a bit. Acknowledging that rationality has its limits as a motivator to human action is not quite the same thing as claiming that it’s time to abandon rationality.

However, I do try to keep a lid on my arrogance by remembering that my penchant towards rationality does not make me a better person. Most of the people that I consider actively “doing good” are, by my consideration, less rational on a daily basis. They believe, and that motivates them to do far more good than I ever will.

Well, if we want to get really rational, we have to admit reality has no side. In fact, reality has no meaning. All our hopes, dreams, joys and despair are just electrical signals in a some chemicals.

True rationality is the ultimate nihilism.


Is “fighting fire with fire” always abandoning rationality, though? Are there times where things like violence are actually the rational course, for example? [quote=“tlwest, post:19, topic:97955”]
I do try to keep a lid on my arrogance by remembering that my penchant towards rationality does not make me a better person.

I like this way of thinking. I think if we ALL actual put checks on our particular assumptions about our world views, we might all be more humble and empathetic. [quote=“tlwest, post:19, topic:97955”]
Most of the people that I consider actively “doing good” are, by my consideration, less rational on a daily basis.

What matters, their motivation for doing good or their actions of doing good? Does if matter that much if the person working to help the homeless is doing it to later meet Jesus or because they see it has community improvement or just the rational thing to do? Doesn’t that homeless person get help no matter what the motivation is?

Dude, you’re on fire today… or 16 hours ago. I liked this post. Thanks for being so thoughtful!