The Trump administration hid for months a government report showing that Wells Fargo charges unusually high rates for college student bank accounts, according to multiple news outlets.
The analysis, conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), found that students paid an average of $46.99 in fees to Wells Fargo over 12 months.
By comparison, TCF National Bank and U.S. Bank, the banks with the second- and third-highest rates, charged $27.27 and $26.47, respectively. Meanwhile, the largest provider of college bank accounts, BankMobile, charged $12.12 per account.
The CFPB released the report for the first time publicly following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Politico and pressure from multiple advocacy organizations.
A copy of the report was sent to a top Education Department official in February, meaning it had been available for at least 10 months.
The analysis examined the fees associated with debit cards and other financial products provided by 14 companies through agreements with more than 500 colleges across the country. The report found that Wells Fargo's annual fee per account was around $50, higher than any other provider.
The report was assembled under Seth Frotman, the top official overseeing student loans at the CFPB who resigned over the summer, Politico reported. Frotman in his resignation letter accused the consumer bureau of having "suppressed the publication" of the report, which he said provides evidence banks are "ripping off students on campuses across the country by saddling them with legally dubious account fees."
The report also finds that students using debit cards or accounts endorsed by their colleges paid $27.6 million total in account fees between 2016 and 2017. Students on average paid more fees when financial institutions paid their colleges to promote those accounts, Marketwatch reported.
A spokesperson for Wells Fargo, Jim Seitz, in a statement to Politico said the bank doesn't charge extra for student accounts, adding "customers use their accounts in different ways."
“For example, some campuses have higher concentrations of nontraditional or part-time students with more complex banking needs, such as sending wires or purchasing more checks,” Seitz told the outlet. "Others may have high international populations that send and receive money to/from overseas."
The report found that students pay three times more in average fees when their bank had a financial relationship with their college.
The CFPB told Politico that it had provided the report to the Department of Education (DOE), which did not release the results publicly.
DOE spokeswoman Liz Hill in an emailed statement to Marketplace said the report was “broader in scope” than the department's authority.
But she said it was concerning that the CFPB and DOE did not act on the report for over a year.
“That’s thousands more college students that have been taken advantage of by these deals,” she said. “We did them a real disservice.”