… judges and regulators have ruled that when a business makes a claim that is either vague or so obviously inflated that people simply won’t believe it, that’s “puffery,” and not actionable in court.
Wells Fargo, which is struggling to rebuild its reputation for integrity after a string of scandals involving consumer rip-offs, is testing the limits of the “puffery” defense. In a legal filing last week aimed at getting a shareholder lawsuit dismissed, the company asserted that statements that the bank was working to “restore trust” among its customers and “trying to be more transparent” about its scandals — statements made by its chief executive, Tim Sloan — were, well, just puffery.
Wells Fargo says that even though the statements by its management fall within the legal definition of puffery, that doesn’t mean they’re untrue. “Wells Fargo stands behind the statements it made regarding its commitment to transparency and rebuilding trust with its customers,” the bank told me by email. “These statements were true then and remain so today.”—Michael Hiltzik, L.A. Times1