by Maxine Bernstein - The Oregonian/OregonLive
An identity thief opened a Wells Fargo car loan account in the name of Matthew Sponer, bought a BMW at a used car dealership in Southern California in July 2016, was caught that fall and convicted several months later.
Despite repeated attempts by Sponer and his lawyer to get his bank to delete the $29,000 debt that his credit report showed he owed for the car loan, Wells Fargo didn’t do it for 14 months. They finally followed through after Sponer sued the bank.
The delay came despite a detective confirming to the bank the identity theft, the thief’s guilty plea and sentencing, the bank’s receipt of a police report and Sponer’s credit card statements that showed he was out of the country when the car was purchased.
On Tuesday, a federal jury awarded Sponer $101,000 in noneconomic damages, finding Wells Fargo Bank negligently and willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act. But the eight-member jury didn’t issue any punitive damages.
Jurors deliberated for about six hours after a four-day federal court trial in Portland.
“A consumer should not have to sue a bank like Wells Fargo to get it to do what the law requires,’’ Sponer’s lawyer, Robert S. Sola, said during his closing argument. “They ignored all the information in their own record.’’