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Fifth Third Bank Creates False Accounts

Fifth Third Bank employees have been fraudulently opening banking accounts for customers without their approval. This behavior is not new to the banking industry as Wells Fargo had been engaging in this behavior in the past. The reason both banks claimed this unauthorized behavior occurred is related to ambitious sales goals imposed by the banks on their employees. When employees are asked to achieve unattainable sales goals, and they do not have a fair way to achieve them, they may engage in unethical or illegal behavior to meet the goals. The sales function within an organization can develop a 'subculture' which helps salespeople navigate the unique aspects of their jobs, generating revenue, and representing new products and services. If not monitored, the sales subculture can deviate ethically from the overall organizational culture. Court documents show that Fifth Third was aware that employees were opening unauthorized accounts but did not prevent the fraud. The company should have adjusted sales goals and incentives to prevent the misconduct, but did not do enough to curve the errant behavior.

Fifth Third leadership's failure to protect customers in light of their awareness of the misconduct is a huge 'red flag.' The fact that leaders and managers in the organization did not manage their employee's behavior speaks to a potential broader ethical concern that the culture of Fifth Third Bank was one that valued performance and profits over the care of its customers. The core ethical organizational culture at Wells Fargo was also questioned when they were undergoing the investigation and litigation over their misconduct. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Fifth Third Bank did little to "detect and stop" the opening of fraudulent accounts and likely injured Fifth Third customers in the process. Fifth Third Bank contends that the absolute number of false accounts opened, based on its calculations are only just over 1,000 of more that 10 million accounts. As the investigation continues, it will shed more light into the scope and scale of the misconduct.

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