The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a bulletin on Monday warning supervised financial companies that creating incentives for employees and service providers to meet sales and other business goals can lead to consumer harm if not properly managed.
“Tying bonuses and job security to business goals that are unrealistic or not properly monitored can lead to illegal practices like unauthorized account openings and deceptive sales tactics,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray, in a statement. “The CFPB is warning companies to make sure that their incentives operate to reward quality customer service, not fraud and abuse.”
In early September, CFPB cracked down on Wells Fargo after the bank’s employees opened 2 million unauthorized accounts to reach cross-sale goals. Wells Fargo was fined a total of $185 million by the CFPB for its widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.
The bank has continued to face scrutiny, and following the Wells Fargo scandal, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority launched a sweep of broker-dealers’ cross-selling practices.
The CFPB’s bulletin warns financial companies that unchecked incentives may lead to violations of consumer financial law.
Banks and other financial companies use incentives – particularly in many consumer financial markets, such as credit cards, mortgages, checking accounts and debt collection – to encourage their employees and service providers to accomplish business objectives. These programs commonly reward employees or services providers for selling or referring new products or services to existing customers, signing up new customers, selling products and services at higher prices, or meeting target amounts for debt collections.