In the Wells Fargo accounts scandal, millions of banking accounts were created for customers without their consent. The scandal cost Wells Fargo customers millions of dollars in direct and indirect charges. Investigations revealed that employees were pressured into creating these false accounts through abusive banking practices promulgated from the top. These practices are not unique to Wells Fargo; instead, they are ubiquitous in the financial services industry.
Current financial regulations do not adequately address how to mitigate banks’ harmful practices. This comment explores the premise that bank worker unionization could serve as a much-needed check on the power of financial institutions and the directors and officers who run them. The comment provides an overview of why large financial institutions are incentivized to engage in harmful and economically unsound banking practices. The comment then outlines the potential for unions to constrain abusive commercial banking interests and recounts current efforts to unionize bank workers. Finally, the comment argues that threats to dismantle current consumer protection enforcement and banking regulations call for a new, worker-centered approach to hold financial institutions accountable to the public.
Emma Cusumano, Regulating from the Ground Up: Controlling Financial Institutions with Bank Workers’ Unions, 53 U. Rich. L. Rev. 733 (2018).