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Wells Fargo Fake Accounts Balloon To An Estimated 3.5 Million

Wells Fargo & Co may have opened as many as 3.5 million unauthorized customer accounts, far more than previously estimated, according to lawyers seeking approval of a $142 million settlement over the practice.

The new estimate was provided in a filing late Thursday night in the federal court in San Francisco, and is 1.4 million accounts higher than previously reported by federal regulators, in what became a national scandal.

Keller Rohrback, a law firm for the plaintiff customers, said the higher estimate reflects "public information, negotiations, and confirmatory discovery."

The Seattle-based firm also said the number "may well be over-inclusive, but provides a reasonable basis on which to estimate a maximum recovery."

Wells Fargo spokesman Ancel Martinez in an email said the new estimate was "based on a hypothetical scenario" and unverified, and did not reflect "actual unauthorized accounts."

Nonetheless, it could complicate Wells Fargo's ability to win approval for the settlement, which has drawn opposition from some customers and lawyers who consider it too small.

Garrison's firm said in a filing the accord underestimated the potential maximum damages by at least 50 percent, and did not properly address whether Wells Fargo committed identity theft by using customers' personal data to open accounts.

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