"U.S. Trial Firm of the Year" – 3 Consecutive Years (Benchmark; Law360)

Navajo Nation Sues Wells Fargo

Bank_ATM - Picture of finger pushing button at ATM machine

On behalf of the Navajo Nation, Hueston Hennigan has filed suit against Wells Fargo Bank. The suit alleges the bank deliberately targeted members of the nation’s largest tribe with predatory and fraudulent practices, then lied to the tribal government when confronted. The complaint alleges that Wells Fargo employees at branches on the Navajo Nation routinely misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts and obtained debit and credit cards without customers’ consent.

Among the populations targeted by Wells Fargo were the tribe’s elders — some of whom do not speak English well. They were purposely confused and deceived into purchasing products to help employees meet banking quotas. Wells Fargo went so far as to attend community events, like flea markets and basketball games, in an attempt to sign Navajo people up for unnecessary accounts en masse—all to meet its sales targets. These practices were particularly harmful because Wells Fargo, in some cases, is the only banking option for residents.

“Wells Fargo’s targeted exploitation of the most vulnerable Navajo communities reflects an even darker and more insidious side to Wells Fargo profiteering schemes that have been unearthed to date.  Wells Fargo deceived the Navajo people and lied to their government, subverting the government’s ability to represent the legitimate interests of the Tribe,” said attorney John Hueston.

“Wells Fargo’s exploitation of its customers has been well documented,” said President Russell Begaye. “But even so, Wells Fargo’s actions toward the Navajo people have been of a uniquely outrageous nature.”

Attorney General Ethel Branch said, “Wells Fargo must be held accountable for its unfair and unlawful practices directed toward the Navajo people. Among their other despicable acts, the bank specifically targeted our most vulnerable population – our elders.”

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.

The Hueston Hennigan team includes John C. Hueston,  Moez M. Kaba, Leanne Vanecek, Stephen Richards  and Selena Galaviz.