TOLEDO, Ohio, Oct. 4 (UPI) — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is vowing to hold Wells Fargo and other companies accountable for “outrageous” corporate greed.
“So today I want to send a clear message to every boardroom, every executive suite across America: If you scam your customers, exploit your employees, pollute our environment, or rip off taxpayers, we will find ways to hold you accountable,” she said in a speech in Toledo on Monday.
She specifically mentioned the scandal at Wells Fargo in which thousands of employees opened credit and debit card accounts without customers’ knowledge over several years, calling it “egregious corporate behavior.”
“Look at Wells Fargo. Really shocking, isn’t it?” she said to the crowd. “One of the nation’s biggest banks bullying thousands of employees into committing fraud against unsuspecting customers, secretly opening up millions of accounts for people without their consent, even their knowledge, misusing personal information, and then sticking customers with hidden fees. It is outrageous that eight years after a cowboy culture on Wall Street wrecked our economy, we are still seeing powerful bankers playing fast and loose with the law.”
Wells Fargo employees opened more than 2 million checking, savings and credit card accounts without customers’ permission in order to meet sales quotas. More than 5,300 employees have been fired in the scandal and CEO John Stumpf has agreed to give up $41 million of pay.
Wells Fargo reached a $185 million settlement with federal regulators last month.
Customers weren’t able to sue because their contracts said they would arbitrate disputes instead of suing Wells Fargo in court.
“When the scam’s victims, people like you and me, who had accounts there tried to sue, they were shocked to learn there was a provision in the very fine print of their contracts that kept them from going to court to sue the bank for being cheated. Instead, they are forced into a closed-door arbitration process without the important protections that you get in a court of law. We are not going to let corporations like Wells Fargo use these fine print ‘gotchas’ to escape accountability.”
Before the speech, Clinton campaign released her vision for the American economy that includes two new proposals: 1. Eliminating “forced arbitration” clauses in contracts so consumers can sue corporations in court rather than being forced into private arbitration; and 2. Promoting competition by addressing excessive market concentration and reinvigorating antitrust laws and enforcement.
Her policy includes eliminating tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, protecting consumers from “unfair and deceptive practices,” promoting free and fair competition that helps small businesses and rules to allow workers to share in profits.
Clinton wants Congress to give the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission and Department of Labor the authority to restrict arbitration clauses.
“And that starts by defending and empowering the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created after the financial crisis,” she said in her speech. “The agency has already returned more than $11 billion to more than 15 million Americans who were ripped off by predatory lenders, credit card companies, and others. And it is the one making sure that the defrauded Wells Fargo customers get their money back.”
Conversely, she said will “stand with” a company “if you do the right thing and you invest in your workers and your communities and our country’s future, we will stand with you. That is the choice. Our goal is to make it easier for everyone to do better.”
Clinton was speaking in a union town that has lost manufacturing jobs. She noted she is the
the granddaughter of a factory worker from Scranton, Pa.
“Toledo is the kind of place where people work hard, look after one another, and yes, pay their taxes, right?”
That was an indirect reference to her Republican rival, Donald Trump.
The New York Times on Saturday night reported a $916 million loss Donald Trump declared on his 1995 New York state income tax returns may have allowed him to legally avoid paying any personal income tax for nearly two decades.
“Trump represents the same rigged system that he claims he’s going to change,” she said.
She mentioned how the tax code rewards corporations for outsourcing jobs and their profits overseas instead of investing in the United States.
“And it is riddled with loopholes that let the rich get even richer and make income inequality even worse,” she said. “It tilts the playing field further against small businesses that can’t afford lawyers and lobbyists.”
Clinton said it doesn’t have to be this way with businesses.
“Corporations should feel some sense of responsibility not just to their biggest shareholders – but to their workers, to their customers, to their communities, and yes, to our country, to the United States of America. We have been moving off track for decades. I don’t need to tell you that. You know it, you’ve lived it, you’ve seen it. But it is time to get back on track.”
She noted there are good companies.
“I will say, most American companies – most – are run by honorable, patriotic people who care about their employees and communities. But there are still too many powerful interests fighting to protect their own profits and privileges at the expense of everyone else. And they are aided and abetted by the rules and incentives in our economy who actually encourage people at the top to take advantage of consumers, workers, small businesses and taxpayers.
“That makes it tougher for the well-meaning CEOs to take the high road. And it gets even harder when we don’t aggressively enforce the rules, when we don’t enforce trade rules that allow other countries with lower wages and standards to get an unfair leg up, when we don’t enforce rules on Wall Street, which exerts enormous pressure on publicly traded companies to prioritize boosting share prices in the short term over building real value, investing in workers, plant, and equipment over the longer term.”
Clinton said she is on the side of the workers.
“I will always stand up and fight for you and fight for your jobs and fight for your families,” she said.