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Wells Fargo accused of ripping off mom-and-pop shops

Wells Fargo has already admitted to charging people for overdrawing bank accounts that they didn’t have and for car insurance that they didn’t need. Now, it’s being accused of ripping off vulnerable mom-and-pop businesses. For several years, Wells Fargo’s merchant services division overcharged small businesses for processing credit card transactions, a lawsuit alleges. Business owners who tried to leave Wells Fargo were charged “massive early termination fees,” according to the lawsuit filed in US District Court. The “overbilling scheme” targeted less sophisticated businesses by using “deceptive language” in a 63-page contract designed to confuse them, the lawsuit filed on August 4 claims. The lawyer filed court documents to seek class action status. The latest controversy centers on Wells Fargo Merchant Services, a joint venture that is 60% owned by Wells Fargo and 40% controlled by First Data (FDC). A former employee of the Wells Fargo (WFC) business claimed that he was instructed to target these small businesses. “We used to be told to go out and club the baby seals: mom-pop-shops that had no legal support,” he said in an interview. The former Wells Fargo employee spoke on the condition of anonymity, but CNNMoney verified that he worked for Wells Fargo Merchant Services. The former Wells Fargo employee said that when he worked there, from 2011 to 2013, it was nearly impossible for business owners to leave the merchant agreement. “God would have had a hard time” escaping the contract, he said. “It really was like a shady used car deal.”

One of the plaintiffs in the suit, Queen City Tours, claims it was assessed a $500 early termination fee after trying to leave Wells Fargo Merchant Services. The North Carolina company, which focuses on African-American themed tours in Charlotte and is owned by military veteran Juan Whipple, alleges in the lawsuit that Wells Fargo charged it monthly fees of $20 to $35 for failing to have a minimum number of transactions. That’s despite the fact that the company claims the contract said there would be no such fees. The tour company says in the lawsuit that its business is seasonal, and that it has few sales during off-peak months.The second plaintiff, the Pennsylvania restaurant Patti’s Pitas, claims it was “pounded by excessive fees” — even after it went out of business in May 2017. When Patti’s Pitas tried to leave the contract, it was told it couldn’t because of a three-year term that the owner wasn’t aware of, the lawsuit said. Wells Fargo, which was already under heavy legal scrutiny regarding unauthorized bank and credit card accounts, eventually closed the account without a termination fee. Regarding the lawsuit, the bank said, “We deny these claims and intend to defend against [it].” The company added that it believes its “negotiated pricing terms are fair and were administrated appropriately.”Wells Fargo declined to respond to the specific claims by the former employee.

Oil prices pushed lower by strong dollar

Oil prices edged down Monday, depressed by a strong dollar and concerns that reduced global appetite for crude might frustrate efforts by major producers to cut supply. Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, fell 0.46% to $51.87 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures exchange. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate futures were down 0.43% at $48.61 a barrel. The appreciating US dollar helped push down crude futures. The Wall Street Journal Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of other currencies, rose 0.23% to $86.17 Monday. As oil is priced in dollars, the commodity becomes more expensive for holders of other currencies as the greenback appreciates. Last week, the International Energy Agency published revised figures for global crude demand. At the end of 2017, demand is now seen at 33 million barrels a day, compared with a previous estimate of 33.6 million barrels. The new estimate is “only marginally above the current level of OPEC output,” according to Commerzbank analysts. “In other words, there will no longer be any significant supply deficit in the second half of the year, so there is hardly likely to be any further inventory reduction,” they said in a note. Since 2016, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and a handful of nations outside the cartel have cut global oil supply by about 2% in an attempt to rebalance the market. While global inventories have declined, stockpiles remain above the five-year average–the level to which OPEC wants to return and oil prices have moved little. “Since the end of July we have basically gone sideways with small movements for brent crude, so we are pretty range bound,” said Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB Markets.

Mortgage scams

The latest attack involves well-known mortgage company Nationstar. According to a scam alert issued by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, callers who claim to be with Nationstar are asking for money to be sent to an attorney in Florida promising a loan modification on the victim’s mortgage. The scammers are asking New Mexicans to wire money upwards of $1200, money that they may never get back, Balderas cautioned. The alert stated that the calls come from Ymax or Magic Jack phone numbers and can appear to come from any area code. “Calls and offers like these are scams and New Mexico homeowners need to be vigilant, because once you wire that money you may never get it back,” said Balderas. “If you are struggling to make your mortgage payments, there is legitimate help available to you from our Keep Your Home New Mexico program. Please contact our office and we will work with you to see what options are available to you and your family.” “Foreclosure can feel like a hopeless, scary situation, but the worst thing you can do is nothing at all. Ignoring the problem will only make it worse so please contact Keep Your Home New Mexico if you need assistance,” Balderas added.

Trump to ramp up trade pressure on China with call for probe on Monday

–  President Donald Trump will order his top trade adviser to determine whether to investigate Chinese trade practices that force US firms operating in China to turn over intellectual property.

–  The move could eventually lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods.

–  Trump has said he would be more amenable to going easy on Beijing if it were more aggressive in reining in North Korea.

President Donald Trump on Monday will order his top trade adviser to determine whether to investigate Chinese trade practices that force US firms operating in China to turn over intellectual property, senior administration officials said on Saturday. The move, which could eventually lead to steep tariffs on Chinese goods, comes at a time when Trump has asked China to do more to crack down on North Korea’s nuclear missile program as he threatens possible military action against Pyongyang. Trump has said he would be more amenable to going easy on Beijing if it were more aggressive in reining in North Korea. An administration official, however, insisted diplomacy over North Korea and the potential trade probe were “totally unrelated,” saying the trade action was not a pressure tactic. “These are two different things,” the official said, speaking to reporters on a conference call. Trump will direct US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine if an investigation is warranted of “any of China’s laws, policies, practices or actions that may be unreasonable or discriminatory, and that may be harming American intellectual property, innovation and technology,” the official said. “China’s unfair trade practices and industrial policies, including forced technology transfer and intellectual property theft, harm the US economy and workers,” a second official said. “The action being taken on Monday is a reflection of the president’s firm commitment to addressing this problem in a firm way.”

Posted by: pharbuck on August 14, 2017
Posted in: Uncategorized