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Portland Man Says He Was Denied Service, Told Wells Fargo ‘Isn’t the Bank for You’ When Employee Learned He Was Black

A man in Portland says he was denied service at Wells Fargo after an employee discovered his race.

The “Banking While Black” complaint, filed by Paul Dawson in Multnomah County, Oregon, on Monday, alleges that an employee refused to open an account for Dawson after finding out he was Black.

According to court records, Dawson called Wells Fargo on March 26 to open an account. The employee allegedly asked if Dawson was Black, and then told him Wells Fargo “isn’t the bank for you,” after Dawson confirmed his race.

Dawson said the woman on the phone also told him he was talking “ghetto,” and told him he should go to a credit union.

Five days after the phone call on March 31, Dawson, an inmate at Oregon State Penitentiary, requested a copy of the phone call from the Department of Corrections.

Dawson is seeking $1 in nominal damages, and a jury trial. He is asking Wells Fargo not to discriminate against people.

“In cases of racial discrimination, the focus is not so much what happened to our client, but on impact litigation — getting the company to change its practices,” said Michael Fuller, Dawson’s attorney. “This keeps the focus on Wells Fargo and what they did.”

“This was very racist and hurtful. I am just scared that Wells Fargo will delete the call and I’ll have no way to prove what happened,” said Dawson.

Fuller provided confirmation to The Oregonian/OregonLive showing that prison administrators heard the racist remarks.

In a statement to The Oregonian/OregonLive, Wells Fargo wrote: “We take allegations of discrimination regarding our customers and employees very seriously. As a financial services company serving diverse communities, we are committed to providing fair and equal access to financial products and services for everyone.”

News of the lawsuit comes just days after Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf came under fire after Reuters reported that he had made inflammatory comments about workplace diversity.

“While it might sound like an excuse, the unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from,” Scharf said in the memo obtained by Reuters.

Sharf apologized for his comments in a statement posted to the company’s Twitter page.


Wells Fargo reached a $175 million settlement in 2012 to resolve a racial discrimination probe following accusations that it unfairly inflated loan rates for Black and Hispanic customers. It paid nearly $8 million earlier this year to settle hiring bias claims alleging that Black and female applicants were discriminated against.

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