Sunday, August 11, 1996
By Scott Stimson
Summer Bruin Contributor
A Wells Fargo data transfer error on July 31 delayed the deposit
of more than $33 million of UCLA "sure pay" direct deposit
paychecks, the latest in a string of problems between the
university and the bank.
University officials confirmed that the error was the largest
experienced with Wells Fargo. Some suspect that this and other
errors are a direct result of the April takeover of First
Interstate Bank by Wells Fargo.
Bank officials, on the other hand, deny that the problem was
merger-related, attributing it to human error.
In an interview with The Bruin, a Wells Fargo spokesperson said
that the problem arose from a malfunction in their computer system,
and was worsened by a technician’s attempts to fix it.
"During the transmission of files in our Data Center, a device
malfunctioned and subsequent attempts by the operator to fix it
made it worse," said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Lorna Doubet.
As a result, transmission deadlines were not met, and payroll
funds were not deposited in the accounts of UCLA employees on
"Some files were corrupted, and we had to rerun the data
transmission," Doubet said. "Because of this, we missed the
transmission deadlines of other banks and credit unions."
Of the 118 banks and institutions affected by the snafu, UCLA
felt the greatest amount of disruption, university officials
"For a period of three days, we had almost 100 percent of our
resources devoted to receiving phone calls from concerned employees
and making calls to the financial institutions of affected
employees," said Mary Ogrin, manager of the UCLA payroll
"Our normal office operations were at a standstill," she
It is impossible to determine how many of the 6000 affected
employees encountered problems because of the mixup, Ogrin
"Up to this point, I am aware of only about two dozen employees
who had problems related to the delay," she said.
According to Wells Fargo, a representative called the Regents’
office about the delay Thursday morning.
"As soon as he found out (about the problem), the representative
made a personal call to the Regents’ office," Doubet said.
However, Ogrin said that the payroll office was first notified
by the University Credit Union and not Wells Fargo. The University
Credit Union called after discovering that the deposits had not
been delivered to their computers.
The delay was the largest problem to arise between the
University of California (UC) and Wells Fargo in their five-year
relationship. The UC is looking for assurances from Wells Fargo
that they will not make a similar or possibly worse mistake.
"The treasurer’s office has scheduled meetings with Wells Fargo
that will specifically address this incident, (the delay)" said Pat
Small, Treasurer of the University of California.
There are some people within the UC that don’t believe Wells
Fargo has addressed the true cause of the delay. "This so-called
human error took place in the context of one of the largest bank
mergers in U.S. history," said Greg Colley, assistant director of
UC cash and banking systems.
"To classify it (the error) as being unrelated is a a bit of a
stretch," he said.
Doubet holds out hope that the relationship between the UC and
Wells Fargo can be repaired. "We made a mistake and we are very
sorry. Wells is offering to pay for any expenses that may have
resulted from the delay."