Private financial information about as many as 50,000 Wells Fargo clients was accidentally sent to a former financial adviser after his attorney had subpoenaed the bank about an unrelated matter, according to The New York Times. The files were also said to include extensive information on Wells Fargo’s employee advisors, including their performance, compensation and client lists.

The lawyer for ex-Wells Fargo Advisors broker Gary Sinderbrand — who worked at the firm from 2008 to 2013, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records — had been seeking documents related to a defamation case, the Times said. What arrived instead was a CD with about 1.4 gigabytes of information, including Social Security numbers and the details of investment portfolios of some of bank's wealthiest clients.

There was no written confidentiality agreement in place, the Times reported, which would make it legal to release some of the information. If the material was included in legal filings, it could be accessed by others as part of the public record.

Bloomberg News

Sinderbrand's attorney, Aaron Zeisler, told the Times his client planned to keep the information “secure and confidential.”

The bank asked for the "rapid return" of the documents, and is taking legal action to ensure it is not disseminated, according to a statement from Wells Fargo. The trove had been sent by an attorney with Florham Park, New Jersey, law firm Bressler, Amery & Ross, which had been hired by the bank, the Times said.

“Wells Fargo takes the security and privacy of our customers’ information very seriously,” Wells Fargo spokeswoman Kim Yurkovich said in an emailed statement. "In response to a subpoena issued in connection with a lawsuit, client data that should have been removed was inadvertently provided to an attorney. We are currently taking legal action to ensure the additional data is not disseminated, and we are requesting its rapid return. We continue to thoroughly investigate this matter and will take the proper steps, including corrective action, based on the outcome of our investigation."


The disclosure of client data comes at a challenging time for Wells Fargo. Regulators fined the firm a record $185 million for opening legions of accounts for customers without permission. The bank also said in early July it would set aside $142 million for customer remediation claims related to a class-action suit.

Broker attrition has been especially acute: The firm has lost more than a net 500 advisors from its headcount in the last three quarters.

-- Additional reporting from Bloomberg News

Chelsea Emery

Chelsea Emery

Chelsea Emery is Editor-in-Chief of Financial Planning, SourceMedia’s flagship brand covering wealth management.