U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King ruled this week that Wells Fargo cannot force unnamed class members’ claims into arbitration in five lawsuits arising out of alleged improper re-ordering of overdraft fees that have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in Florida.
The ruling came in three cases originally filed by Wells Fargo customers in Oregon, New Mexico, and Washington, as well as two cases that originated in Florida and California over the alleged conduct of Wachovia Bank NA, which Wells Fargo Bank NA later absorbed.
Judge King said in the orders that the bank had voluntarily and actively participated in litigating the cases, which were handled as major class actions. “Under the circumstances, it would be unfair, and fundamentally at odds with the principles underlying the Federal Arbitration Act, to permit Wells Fargo to effectively ‘wait in the weeds’ and invoke arbitration, after years of litigation, now that the alternate path the bank chose did not turn out as it had hoped,” the judge said in the Wells Fargo order. “This logic applies with equal force to the class as it did to the named plaintiffs.”
We have been prosecuting this case since the late 2000s. Most of the improper overdraft cases filed against the banks in that period have settled. Hopefully, Wells Fargo will step up also.