(Update) Is Wells Fargo Still Playing Shady Games, Or Are They Just Incompetent?

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Wells Fargo Still Playing Shady Games

Is Wells Fargo Still Playing Shady Games, Or Are They Just Incompetent?

Wells Fargo has built quite the reputation for itself, and not in a good way.  A few years back they were busted for making fake accounts for customers and overcharging mortgage customers etc. The list really went on and on, and they have not been alone with others in the banking industry doing predatory things. Wells Fargo was the worst offender thought and they were handed down some large fines (but small compared to the crime). Because of this they promised to change the culture of their company. The funny thing is, culture is a tough thing to change, and it can take years.  My recent run in with the bank has me wondering, is Wells Fargo still playing shady games or are they just plain incompetent?

Update 10/24/20 – I wanted to get back to you on the $50 refund for the $100 yearly fee that was promised.  Wells Fargo did end up sending it out and my wife didn’t even need to follow up with a call.  It appears they have at least one competent rep working the phone lines.

Background Of My Wife’s Roth IRA Account

My wife’s parents set up her first Roth IRA account as a graduation gift from high school and put some money into it.  Over the years we put a little bit of money here and there into it but had not touched it in many years.

Once the news broke about Wells Fargo’s poor tactics our investment advisor jumped ship to another investment firm, along with everyone else that worked in his office.  At that point we should have made the change along with him. Life just got in the way though.

We were very much in an inertia state with the account and left our investments as is for a few years. We had started contributing to other accounts instead. That was until we received a letter saying that they would be charging us $100 a year to keep the account open.  That got us motivated to make some changes.  If you listen to the podcast then you know we have recently bought a summer cottage. We figured we could use the money from the account towards the purchase. We would need to pay a 10% early withdraw penalty and taxes on the earnings, but this equated to a relatively small amount. She would be able to withdraw the contributions we made over the years tax free and without penalty though.

We had a perfect storm of inertia busting motivation!

calling in

Things Go Off The Rails When We Attempt To Close The Account

So we knew that we wanted to pull the money out and that the $100 fee was upcoming. The yearly fee was scheduled to be billed in September so we started the process to close the account in mid August. We didn’t actually complete the closure and receive the money until early October.

Yes, you read that right, the account took one and a half months to close. During the entire process there were a calamity of errors and excuses from Wells Fargo. It had us left wondering, is Wells Fargo still playing shady games or are they just incompetent?  I will give you a blow by blow breakdown of what happened along the way.

First Point Of Contact

The first thing we did was reach out to Wells Fargo about closing the account while logged into her account.  We received a response from “her advisor”.  We have never heard from or spoken to this person, but they were assigned to her account.

She called her advisor on the phone on August 20th and he said he would send out some forms for us to fill out and to return them.  Sounded easy enough, but it was far from easy.

Filling Out The Form…Twice

The form was emailed to my wife and we filled it out.  The options were a little confusing, it had a box to check for closure and then it asked what shares we were selling etc. We filled it out the best we could and sent it back on August 24th.  We had received no directions or instructions on what to do exactly when it was first sent to us.

The advisor called us back a day or two later a little panicky saying that we were not supposed to fill it out at all but just to sign it and send it back.  That sounded strange but we figured that we probably filled the boxes in wrong etc. So we did what was asked and had my wife sign the form and send it back.

This back and forth pushed the date of the paperwork filed to the 27th of August.

frustrated

Our Advisor Lost Access To Our Account….What?

After not hearing anything for a few days we reached out again on September 2nd asking when the process should be complete. That is when a new Wells Fargo employee emailed us on behalf of her advisor. He had to forward a message from her advisor since his email was down.  Here is what the message said:

Hello Kirsten,

Last week, I found out that I lost access to your account.  I tried getting it back to finish your transaction to no avail.  You would have to call Solutions at 866-636-8339.  I already sent in the paperwork we had filled out to them.  They will be able to send you the money. 

I deeply apologize for the inconvenience.

What? How is this a thing? An advisor that can not access his client’s account? Now we have to call into the main call center to finish this whole thing? Talk about unprofessional.

Calling In & Filling Out The Form A 3rd Time

Our shady meter started tingling and then it went full alert when we called in. My wife was told that she had to fill out the form to close the account.  After assuring the phone agent that we had already done that they “found” it in the system.  That is when my wife was informed that the form was filled out to sell the stocks but not to close the account.  That was a bit surprising since we didn’t actually fill out the form at all, the advisor did.

We were sent a new form that had it prefilled to close the account and she signed it again. She was told the only options to send it in were fax or by mail which was weird since it was fine to email it the first time around.

She faxed it in and then we waited another week but nothing happened.

Calling In Again & Sending Yet Another Form In

After another week we could see in her account that they had sold the stocks, because of the form the advisor had sent in, but the account was still open.  Of course the $100 fee was billed on 9/18, during all of these shenanigans.

My wife called the 866 number once again only to be told that they never received the form and she needed to resend it.  She faxed and emailed it this time, for some reason email was okay this time around.  While on the phone she inquired about the $100 fee. She said this should have been wrapped up long before it was charged and wanted it credited back.  She was told that the closure would have had to happen by the end of July to avoid the fee and that was laid out in the letter we were sent.

I didn’t remember that being in the letter at all but we had misplaced the letter to confirm it.  I figured it would be saved in her online account since we had digital notifications selected on her account. When we logged into her account of course there was no letter uploaded, like it should be…

Wells Fargo Still Playing Shady Games Wells Fargo Still Playing Shady Games

Following Up Once Again And Asking For Compensation

A few more days went by, and the account had not been closed yet, so my wife once again called in to confirm that they finally received her form.  The agent on the phone was able to see both submissions, one from email and one from fax, in her account. Finally!

My wife mentioned the $100 fee once again and the agent was willing to credit her back $50. We were going to take that as a small win and move on but of course the agent was unable to process it because of system errors.  Sure, sure… Then she said that my wife would need to call back after the check was sent out and ask for the $50 in a separate payment. She was told the error should be cleared by then. We finally received the check on 10/3, over 6 weeks from when we first contacted Wells Fargo.  My wife hasn’t had a chance to call back about the $50 yet but I will update this once she does.

Final Thoughts

After writing this all out I am still not sure of the answer to the question, is Wells Fargo still playing shady games or just incompetent?

I think the first advisor seemed a bit shady.  Maybe he didn’t want a closure on his file or maybe they really wanted to push that yearly fee through. Telling someone not to fill out a form and then filling it out for something other than what was asked for is shady.  Then to say that you no longer have access to your client’s account and that they need to call in, what is that?

I think the phone agents were just incompetent for the most part. I think part of the problem is you are dealing with a different person each time you call in. There is no way to follow up or to make sure things are handled properly. It is luck of the draw whether or not you get a competent agent when calling in.

Overall, the process was cumbersome and dragged out to lengths that should have never happen.  I felt like I should share our story in case anyone was considering on working with their investment team.  We will likely continue to take advantage of bank account offers they have from time to time and some of their credit card offers.  But, I would never do business with their investment side again.

What has your experience been with Wells Fargo? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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15 COMMENTS

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Never used financial advisors from Wells Fargo but had a very nasty experience with their mortgage department several years ago which almost cost us our home! Incompetence was only about half the story. But very long story (over 6 months) and truly mountains of actual paperwork later, we were told we would need to default on our mortgage before they would help us! WTH? Needless to say we found an agency to help us refinance sensibly and did get to stay in our home. But the recklessness, incompetence and greed of Wells Fargo put us on high alert.

  2. There’s really no need to pay for an advisor, let alone from Wells Fargo. There’s many other places to park your Roth IRA with a simple transfer to another brokerage, Fidelity being my #1 choice (although there’s others as well like Schwab, Vanguard etc). Fidelity doesn’t charge any maintenance fees and they also have zero fee funds that cover the entire market.

    If you want to keep it simple you can invest in 2-3 stock/bond ETFs based on risk tolerance/time horizon and call it a day. No advisor fees, no maintenance fees and if you buy their zero fee funds then it’s completely free.

    The only time I ever have a banking account at WF is once a year when I take them for $400 which is both financially compensating as well as personally gratifying given their track record. I used to bank with them when I was around 18 years old, lost a lot in interest and fees too when i didn’t know any better. See ya Wells, you’ll eventually get buried by innovation, your ineptitude and a low rate environment 2025+

  3. Thanks for posting. Every few years I come across a company that’s so shady/incompetent/ predatory that I ban them for life. DirectTV/ATT was the last to get banned a couple years ago. Based on your report, and the fact that you are a normal human being, I’m adding Wells Fargo to the banned list without having to experience their nonsense first-hand. (And your account sort of helps to shed some light as to why they seem unable to get the Fed Asset Cap lifted despite years of effort during a very business friendly administration.)

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