Wells Fargo ()
Have crisis, will see class actions. That’s the fate befalling Wells Fargo (again) after news broke that it inappropriately charged some 800,000 auto loan customers with insurance that they didn’t want. The move forced tens of thousands into delinquency, according to an internal report.
Little surprise, then, that class action suits have started popping up all over the country, including one more recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. One of those suits is looking to make the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York home to the disparate actions.
The latest suit, brought by Robins Kaplan and led by assistant managing partner in the New York office Hollis Salzman, is on behalf of Kaylani Ross and Dee Lenz, two Wisconsin Wells Fargo customers that took out an auto loan in 2014. They allege that the bank continued to bill them for forced insurance, despite the pair having their own and requesting that the duplicative insurance be dropped. The failure of the bank to do so ultimately resulted in financial trouble and repossession of their vehicle.
The suit, Ross v. Wells Fargo 17-cv-04498, brings RICO claims on behalf of the class, as well as federal Sherman Act antitrust and California Unfair Competition Law claims.
“This is the story of thousands of people out there, who ultimately saw themselves charged, tried to get it taken care of unsuccessfully, and, as we allege, Wells Fargo was doing it all along to earn extra profits,” said Robins Kaplan partner Kellie Lerner, who, along with Salzman, is leading the litigation from the firm’s New York office.
“Wells Fargo’s continued promises to do right by their customers ring hollow when it knew about this particular problem for months and did not take any action until The New York Times published a story about it,” she added.
The Ross suit is likely to fall under the multidistrict litigation request filed last week by Dicello Levitt & Casey name attorney Adam Levitt. Chicago-based Levitt is currently steering Jacob v. National General Insurance 17-cv-05806, another class action suit against Wells Fargo that also names the bank’s subsidiary insurance provider.
In a supporting brief filed Aug. 2 with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, Levitt noted that two other actions—Hancock v. Wells Fargo 17-cv-04324 filed and Preston v. Wells Fargo 17-cv-04346, both filed in the Northern District of California—face the common set of facts, defendants, and are early enough in the process to consolidate the actions to the Southern District of New York.
“[T]he Southern District of New York is an appropriate and convenient forum to handle this litigation given that one of the Defendants is located just steps from the courthouse, and the judge in the Jacob Action is well-suited to oversee these actions as her inaugural multidistrict case,” the brief argued.
A panel hearing on the motion to transfer is scheduled in Boston on Sept. 28.