Workers tell U.S. Congress about unethical practices at Santander
Front-line employees from Santander Consumer U.S.A. Holdings recently met with members of the United States Congress to discuss overly aggressive loan collection practices at the Spanish-owned bank that harm consumers and bank workers.
The Dallas, Texas-based workers, members of Communication Workers of America’s Committee for Better Banks (CBB), briefed U.S. regulators and members of Congress, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, an outspoken national leader on financial issues. Bank employees argued that a union would help reform the company’s high-pressure collections practices.
Workers’ trip to Washington corresponded to the release of a new report called Wheeling and Dealing Misfortune. The report, authored by the AFL-CIO and the National Employment Law Project (NELP), exposes a culture in Santander’s automotive lending operation that pushes high-interest loan modifications and hidden fees on millions of Americans. Workers say they must aggressively collect on delinquencies or risk losing their jobs.
Santander is one of the biggest lenders to U.S. auto consumers with poor credit histories. These customers often have low incomes and are especially hurt by the high interest rates and fees.
Arnise Porter, a Committee for Better Banks organizer based in Dallas, said, “Santander capitalizes on low-income consumers’ desperation with high-interest loans designed to drive borrowers deeper and deeper into debt. And then they exploit their pressured workers by forcing them to push predatory loan extensions and hidden fees on customers when they inevitably default.”
"The behaviour outlined in this report is troubling and, if true, shows that predatory practices boost profits for banks and their executives while hurting customers and workers," Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, the top Democrat on the US Senate's banking committee, told Bloomberg News about the report. "It’s critical workers are empowered to speak out if their company is harming them or its customers, and I urge Santander to respect the rights of these workers to elect union representation that will give them those protections."
Workers’ revelations about Santander’s practices come at a time when the banking industry is still reeling from the Wells Fargo scandal. Wells Fargo has drawn increased regulatory scrutiny to the financial sector after bank employees revealed that they were forced to create millions of fake accounts to meet unrealistic performance goals.
Christy Hoffman, Deputy General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said, “Banks should not feel that they have a blank check to mislead consumers. Santander workers, with CBB’s support, have been courageous in speaking out about a high-pressure U.S. culture which creates financial and emotional distress for employees and customers alike.”
“This report shows why unions are so important at Santander and in the finance sector generally. Because when workers have a union, they can resist unethical practices without fear of retaliation,” Hoffman continued.
UNI Finance is supporting Santander workers’ drive to form a union.