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Regulators in Wells Fargo’s home state of California have accused the bank of treating consumers “like chattel” after they found customers had been issued about 1,500 insurance policies without their consent.

An investigation found Wells employees told consumers to enter personal information online only for the purposes of a quote, but later submitted the application to the insurer – with which the bank had partnerships — to purchase the policy.

“Consumers should not be treated like chattel by corporations who take advantage of and abuse the consumers’ trust,” said Dave Jones, California’s insurance commissioner. The state’s insurance department is seeking to suspend or revoke Wells’ insurance license in the state.

While the alleged wrongdoing is on a far smaller scale than that involving bank accounts and credit cards — thousands of staff were found to have opened hundreds of thousands of sham accounts across the country — it is the latest blow to Wells’ once-vaunted “cross-selling” business model.

The bank said it had already suspended online referrals of the types of insurance in question — renters policies, and a type of life cover — and had initiated an “internal review”. It was cooperating with the regulators in California.

“We are sorry for any harm this caused our customers and we are making things right for them as part of an ongoing remediation,” it said in a statement. “We will continue to make critical changes to our businesses and operations to better serve customers and build a stronger bank.”

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