Articles Tagged with #Wells Fargo settlement

Wells Fargo Bank N.A. (Wells Fargo) will pay over $6 million to Massachusetts to resolve allegations that it violated state consumer protection laws by using various unfair and deceptive practices against customers, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

This settlement, with Massachusetts and attorneys general from 50 states and the District of Columbia, will resolve allegations that Wells Fargo opened millions of unauthorized accounts and enrolled customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent, improperly referred customers for enrollment in third-party rental and life insurance policies, improperly charged auto loan customers for force-placed and unnecessary collateral protection insurance, failed to ensure that customers received refunds of unearned premiums on certain optional auto finance products, and incorrectly charged customers for mortgage rate lock extension fees. 

The states alleged that Wells Fargo imposed aggressive and unrealistic sales goals on bank employees and implemented an incentive compensation program where employees could qualify for credit by selling certain products to customers. The states further alleged that Wells Fargo’s sales goals and the incentive compensation program created an impetus for employees to engage in improper sales practices in order to satisfy such sales goals and earn financial rewards. Those sales goals became increasingly harder to achieve over time, the states alleged, and employees who failed to meet them faced potential termination and criticism from their supervisors.

Wells Fargo Bank will pay the U.S Treasury $2.09 billion to settle charges that it originated and sold residential mortgage loans which it knew contained misstated income information. Also that it did so when they did not meet the quality that Wells Fargo represented. Investors, including federally insured financial institutions, suffered billions of dollars in losses from investing in residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) containing loans originated by Wells Fargo.  “This settlement holds Wells Fargo accountable for actions that contributed to the financial crisis,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio. “It sends a strong message that the Department is committed to protecting the nation’s economy and financial markets against fraud.”

The Government alleged that, despite knowing that a substantial portion of its stated income loans had misstated income, Wells Fargo did not disclose this information Instead, it reported to investors false debt-to-income ratios in connection with the loans it sold. Wells Fargo also allegedly heralded its fraud controls while failing to disclose the income discrepancies its controls had identified. The United States further alleged that Wells Fargo took steps to insulate itself from the risks of its stated income loans, by screening out many of these loans from its own loan portfolio held for investment and by limiting its liability to third parties for the accuracy of its stated income loans. Wells Fargo sold at least 73,539 stated income loans that were included in RMBS between 2005 to 2007, and nearly half of those loans have defaulted, resulting in billions of dollars in losses to investors.

The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA)FIRREA authorizes the federal government to seek civil penalties against financial institutions that violate various predicate criminal offenses, including wire and mail fraud. The United States alleged that, in 2005, Wells Fargo began an initiative to double its production of subprime and Alt-A loans. As part of that initiative, Wells Fargo loosened its requirements for originating stated income loans – loans where a borrower simply states his or her income without providing any supporting income documentation.

Wells Fargo has agreed to pay over $1 Billion in fines and penalties for fraudulently creating accounts without customers’ authorizations; forcing customers to pay fees the bank should have covered requiring borrowers to pay for insurance policies they did not need and in some cases pushing them into default. The bank paid $185  million to federal regulators in 2016.The Federal Reserve said that Wells Fargo had engaged in widespread consumer abuses and other compliance breakdowns. In addition, in March Wells Fargo reported to federal agencies that it has been asked about its wealth-management business which may have directed customers to inappropriate investments which benefitted the bank.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are the regulators levying the penalty. Notably, the bureau is led by Mick Mulvaney, who wants the agency to take a gentler towards banks. Some analysts wonder whether the bank has been punished enough to alter its culture.Wells Fargo can afford the $1 Billion sanction as it earned a profit of $22.2 billion last year and $5.9 billion in this year’s first quarter.

Jeffrey A. Newman represents whistleblowers