The Wells Fargo Watch

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ICP Fair Finance Watch in The Guardian (UK), Feb. 16-17, 2010, on Wells Fargo's subprime - here

  ICP has published a  book about the Wells-relevant topics of predatory lending, and corporate fraud - click here for sample chapters, here for a map, here for fast ordering and delivery, and here for other ordering information. CBS MarketWatch of April 23, 2004, says it has "some very funny moments."  The Washington Post of March 15, 2004, calls Predatory Bender: America in the Aughts "the first novel about predatory lending;" the London Times of April 15, 2004, "A Novel Approach," said it "has a cast of colorful characters."  See also, "City Lit: Roman a Klepto [Review of ‘Predatory Bender’]," by Matt Pacenza, City Limits, Sept.-Oct. 2004. The Pittsburgh City Paper says the 100-page afterword makes the "indispensable point that predatory lending is now being aggressively exported to the rest of the globe." Click here for that review; click here to Search This Site  For or with more information, contact us.

Updated April 1, 2013

      Inner City Press / Community on the Move (ICP) and its Fair Finance Watch have become increasingly concerned with Wells Fargo's predatory lending, including overseas. ICP first identified these issues at Wells in 1997 (see discussion of Wells' "Island Finance" and its 25% interest rate loans, below), and raised them then, and in 2000 (see, e.g., "N.Y. Activists Seek Nevada Hearing," Las Vegas Sun, Oct. 24, 2000, and "Consumer Advocates Want Hearings on Wells Fargo Deal," Associated Press, April 18-19, 2000 (Alaska). See also, "Group Objects to Wells Deals," by Todd Davenport, American Banker, July 29, 2003, Pg. 17, quoting ICP that "Wells Fargo is a predatory lender, and is exporting these practices beyond the United States." See also, "Group Files to Block Wells Fargo Acquisition," Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 29, 2002; "Wells Fargo Accused of Predatory Lending," Denver Post, July 29, 2003; "Wells Fargo Accused of Unfair Lending," Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 2003; longer list here.

Update of April 1, 2013 -- In the first study of the just-released 2012 mortgage lending data, Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch have found that Wells Fargo continued with high cost loans and disparities by race and ethnicity in denials and higher-cost lending. 2012 is the ninth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over a federally-defined rate spread of 1.61 percent over Treasury bill yields. The just released data show that Wells' largest morgage lender confined African Americans to higher-cost loans above this rate spread 2.32 times more frequently than whites in 2012, Fair Finance Watch has found. Wells' largest morgage lender confined Latinos to higher-cost loans above the rate spread 1.77 times more frequently than whites in 2012, the data show.

Update of October 15, 2012: In Texas, an appeals court on October 12 vacated a sanctions award Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota NA had won against an Austin appraisal district that refused to grant it a property tax break for its pollution control measures, holding the bank didn’t follow tax protest procedures. The case revolves around a former landfill site owned by Wells Fargo that now houses an apartment building and qualified for a pollution control tax break based on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s determination the land has a "positive use"...

Wells Fargo scamming? We've seen it before.

Update of July 30, 2012: Two of the vendors that sold the credit card add-ons cited in Capital One's settlement with the CFPB and OCC also do business with Wells Fargo: private equity owned Affinion Group Holdings, and Intersections. Calling the CFPB....

Update of June 18, 2012: In Philadelphia, Occupiers are gearing up to oppose Wells Fargo's move to renew its contract with City Hall on June 21, saying Wells "plundered the Philly school system."

April 2, 2012 -- In the first study of the just-released 2011 mortgage lending data, Inner City Press and Bronx-based Fair Finance Watch have found that Wells Fargo continued with high cost loans and disparities by race and ethnicity in denials and higher-cost lending.

2011 is the eighth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over a federally-defined rate spread of 1.5 percent over Treasury bill yields.

The just released data show that Wells Fargo confined African Americans to higher-cost loans above this rate spread 2.28 times more frequently than whites in 2011

Update of September 5, 2011: Wells Fargo is moving to settle in Memphis just the type of racially discriminatory predatory lending and foreclosure charges that it has previously bragged about beating in court, for example in Baltimore. We'll be watching this -- and another big bank, next week. Watch this site.

Update of July 21, 2011:  As Federal Reserve Fines Wells Fargo, It's Too Little, Too Late, By Matthew R. Lee

  After being presented with evidence of Wells Fargo's predatory lending for years, but nevertheless approving all of Wells Fargo's merger applications, the Federal Reserve this week belatedly imposed a $85 million fine for abuses by Wells Fargo Financial.

  The response by Bronx-based Fair Finance Watch, which provided the Fed with testimony for whistleblowing employees of Wells Fargo Financial, was too little, too late.

  At Wells, subprime lending has already been shifted into other of the bank's units.

  In 2010, the sixth year in which the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over a federally-defined rate spread of 1.5 percent over Treasury bill yields, the data show that the largest of Wells Fargo's many HMDA data reporters confined African Americans to higher-cost loans 2.56 times more frequently than whites.

   Predatory lending already triggered the global financial meltdown. The Fed, it seems, is merely saving face...

Update of April 18, 2011: A U.S. appeals court ruled April 15 that Wells Fargo & Co. wrongly claimed $115 million in tax deductions for the 2002 tax year from transactions the court called "abusive tax shelters." The so-called SILO deals involve banks that bought railcars or other equipment from the public agencies, claimed millions in depreciation tax benefits, and then leased the equipment back to the agency. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that 26 SILO transactions involving Wells Fargo were "purely circular transactions" that were "abusive tax shelters." The appeals court said a trial judge in the case "permissibly found that the claimed tax deductions are for depreciation on property Wells Fargo never expected to own or operate, interest on debt that existed only on a balance sheet, and write-offs for the costs of transactions that amounted to nothing more than tax deduction arbitrage."

Sounds like Wells..

Update of April 4, 2011: 2010 is the sixth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over a federally-defined rate spread of 1.5 percent over Treasury bill yields. The just released data show that the largest of Wells Fargo's many HMDA data reporters confined African Americans to higher-cost loans 2.56 times more frequently than whites in 2010...

Update of September 13, 2010: “BAE Systems Plc, a global company engaged in the development, delivery and support of advanced defense, security and aerospace systems announced Monday that it has engaged Wells Fargo to advise on strategic options with regard to the Platform Solutions business, including a possible sale.” Ah, arms manufacturers...

Update of August 30, 2010: From the Inner City Press department of No Honor Among Thieves: according to a complaint filed July 23 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Regions Bank and Wells Fargo equally backed a $95 million loan to Corporate Plaza Partners LLC to build the 19-story, 376,000-square-foot NASCAR office building in Charlotte. When Corporate Plaza Partners' parent company filed for bankruptcy, Regions said, Wells Fargo, the designated agent of the loan, failed to aggressively go after the company for the balance of the loan and protect itself and Regions from taking "potentially huge losses."

"Regions expected that Wells Fargo could be trusted to administer the CPP Loan even-handedly and in the best interests of both lenders," Regions said in its complaint. "As alleged herein, however, Wells Fargo repeatedly ignored loan defaults, rebuffed demands by Regions to exercise collection remedies, and allowed the collateral to diminish drastically in value." According to court files reviewed by SNL, a Wells Fargo officer said June 24 that the lenders faced a $30 million to $40 million loss on the loan.

"The loss suffered by Regions is a direct and proximate result of Wells Fargo's breach of express provisions of the CPP Loan agreement as well as the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing," Regions said in its complaint.

The NASCAR office building is essentially complete today, Regions said, but its market value fell in 2010 as vacancy rates across the Charlotte area increased. In June, Regions said, Wells Fargo proposed to buy Regions' share in the loan at about 42 cents on the dollar.

Update of August 2, 2010: Wells Fargo was the target of a governmental charge of predatory lending last week, by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, based on 2004 and 2008 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has analyzed the 2009 data, which it obtained from Wells Fargo, and has found that in 2009, Wells Fargo Bank NA confined African Americans to high cost mortgages 2.40 more frequently than whites. Its disparatiy for Latinos was 2.09. For its subprime affiliate Wells Fargo Funding, the disparities in 2009 were even worse that the bank, and those cited by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission: African Americans were confirmed to high cost loans four times more frequently than whites.

Update of July 12, 2010: Wells Fargo was a top five global private bank last year. Can you say, money laundering and /or tax evasion?

Update of May 3, 2010: Notable is the lawsuit against Wells Fargo for failure to maintain ten apartment buildings in the Bronx, New York that it is foreclosing on, including 3018 Heath Avenue. The case involves over 500 families, tenants of Millbank Real Estate before it defaulted on its $35 million mortgage. Then Wells Wargo and LNR Partners moved in.

Update of April 12, 2010:  In the first study of the just-released 2009 mortgage lending data, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has found that Wells Fargo Bank NA confined African Americans to higher-cost loans above the Federal defined subprime rate spread 2.09 times more frequently than whites. Wells Fargo Bank NA confined Latinos to higher-cost loans above the rate spread 2.09 times more frequently than whites, the data show. For its subprime affiliate Wells Fargo Funding, the disparities were even worse: African Americans were confirmed to high cost loans four times more frequently than whites. 2009 is the sixth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over the federally-defined rate spread. Further studies will follow.

Update of February 22 -- Ten days after the release by the U.S. Senate of a reporting on evasion by the son of Equatorial Guinea's President for Life Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue of anti-money laundering controls by and at Wachovia / Wells Fargo and others, the Obiang regime fired back, calling the report racist and citing in its defense the election of Barack Obama. Inner City Press is putting the Obiangs' memo online, here. InnerCityPress.com article here.

Update of January 4, 2010: Wells Fargo, already being sued by Baltimore for targeting people of color with high cost loans, has now been hit with a similar law suit in Memphis, Tennessee. "Ghetto loans," they call them.

Update of December 7, 2009: In repurchases from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Bank of America disclosed in the third quarter that it bought back, through Sept. 30, $922 million of mortgages tied to faulty underwriting. It of course doesn't break down the size of its repurchase reserve.

Update of September 14, 2009: We note the Malibu partying of Cheronda Guyton, Wells Fargo bank's senior VP for foreclosed properties....

Update of July 27, 2009: "Robert Joss is leaving the board of directors at Wells Fargo to join the board of Citigroup" - WTF? Who is it, that offered him the Citigroup position? How isn't it a conflict of interest, given Citigroup's and Wells' fight for Wachovia? What about the other conflicts of interest on the Citigroup board?

Update of July 13, 2009: Wells Fargo is refusing to help Californians in their time of need, announcing it will not accept the State's IOUs. As noted by the Associated Press, "clearly, the federal government has leverage over these institutions," said [Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch]. Hundreds of banks have received aid from the government as part of its $700 billion rescue plan last fall."Update of May 11, 2009: So the Fed even cooked the books on the stress tests, after Wells Fargo threatened to sue. Way to regulate...

Update of April 27, 2009: From the mailbag -

Subj: My Plight with Wells Fargo Auto Financial
From: [Name withheld in this format]
To: Inner City Press
Sent: 4/17/2009 6:59:57 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Hello Matthew,

I've been referred to you by a family member to contact you about some trouble I've been having with Wells Fargo Auto Financial. I'd like to share my story with you, in hopes that you will promote awareness regarding Predatory and Discriminatory Lending Practices.

I myself, am a young, black female; have always been a part-time worker, and full-time student (until recently as of 4/06/09); and a single mother. At the time I contracted with WF, these same characteristics applied.

December 2007, I was deceived into a contract for an auto loan that did not state the terms that was initially discussed. Based on my good credit history, I was told that Wells Fargo would pay off all of my credit card debt, and buy out my car loan from Bank of America and I would end up paying a low monthly payment each month. Right before it is time to sign the contract, Wells fargo change the terms, and decided it was best to give me a check in the amount of $2000 to pay off my own debt, and buy out my car loan ($18K). This was a little fishy to my then, but I felt pressured to go ahead with the deal because (1) I spent almost 3 hours in this office, and I had to leave quickly; (2) I needed the money to pay off some debt and bills; (3) Wells Fargo offered an additional line of credit (as an incentive) for $1000, and (4) I didn't have to start paying for another month and a half.

The terms were $505.77 per month, which was far less than what I was paying for the bills separately. He told me where to sign, and I left. Things were fine for the first couple of months.

May 2008, I had a life changing event occur. My daughter had chronic bronchitis due to Chicago's weather and I had to move to Arkansas for a better climate environment. Upon my move I had certain job leads that fell through and was out of work for at least 4 months. During the entire time, Well Fargo called everyday, at least 3 or 4 times a day. My credit score dropped tremendously, and no one was willing to help. Once I did find a job, I paid all I could to Wells Fargo to get things back on track, but all the money was going torward the interest and not the principle of the load, which kept me at a standstill with paying it down.

I now landed a job where I currently make $30K. As I discussed to Wells Fargo, I've worked in the $505.77 in my monthly budget; but I know that I don't have the money to pay a past due balance, late charges, the current monthly payment, and rolocation expenses in preparation for this new job. I've kept them up to date with all of the changes, and yet they continue to threaten me with repossession, despite the fact that I paid out over $1500 within the last month and a half.

I've called numerous times to see if my loan can be restructured, and been given countless run arounds. Finally, Wells Fargo Bank explained that neither them nor Wells Fargo Auto Financial work with customers (new or existing) that live in Arkansas.

Bottom line, there was absolutely nothing they could do to help me. All the while, I owe $505.77 for March payment, $272.99 in late charges, $505.77 for April, and the $505.77 in May. My credit score is shot, so no other bank will loan me anything, and no car dealership is willing to take a trade in for a car only worth $8000 but a loan attached to it for $20,000.

I've contacted the CEO, John G. Stumpf, who had someone else send me a letter back explaining that since I signed the contracted there was nothing they could do. I'm seeking justice in that, Well Fargo needs to be stopped. They thought it was best for my financial situation to require a full-time student, part-time worker, single parent, young black lady to pay them $33,380.82 on a car worth $8000. Tack on a 19.24% interest rate to a loan, which would have me pay them $13,035.13 outright.

This is ridiculous, and something must be done. I trusted Wells Fargo in that they were charged to help me. They initially told me that there was something they can do to help, and made me believe that this is what was best for my situation. Now that I am a customer of theirs, there is nothing they can do to assist me. I am enraged!

Us too.

Update of April 6, 2009 -- In the first study of the just-released 2008 mortgage lending data, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has found that Wells Fargo Bank confined African Americans to higher-cost loans above this rate spread 2.18 times more frequently than whites. Wachovia Mortgage FSB, the largest lender of Wachovia which Wells Fargo acquired, had a lower disparity, at 1.46.  Note: 2008 is the fifth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are higher cost, over the federally-defined rate spread of 3 percent over the yield on Treasury securities of comparable duration on first lien loans, 5 percent on subordinate liens.

Update of January 19, 2009:  Here are properties in The Bronx, New York on which Wells Fargo has foreclosed:

  2096 RYER AVE BRONX 2862 Multi-family $374,900 N

  5730 POST ROAD BRONX 1809 Multi-family $599,000 N

  605 WALES AVE BRONX 2700 Duplex TBD N

  2194 WASHINGTON AVE BRONX 2403 Multi-family $325,000 N

  4027 EDSON AVE UNIT 1 & 2 BRONX 1848 Duplex $339,900 N

  2782 CRESTON AVE BRONX 2000 Multi-family TBD N

Update of January 5, 2009: Talk by Wells Fargo that they had cleaned up their predatory lending act has been blown out of the water by the example cited by even the Wall Street Journal, of a $103,000 mortgage on a shack in Arizona, purchased by Wells --

"Less than two years ago, Integrity Funding LLC, a local lender, gave a $103,000 mortgage to the owner, Marvene Halterman, an unemployed woman with a long list of creditors and, by her own account, a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. By the time the house went into foreclosure in August, Integrity had sold that loan to Wells Fargo & Co."

 We'll wait to hear the spinmeisters at Wells try to explain this one away...

Update of December 15, 2008:  After most big banks and even many non-banks have already drawn down their bailout funds from the government's Troubled Assets Relief Program, there's belated interest in Congress in what banks have been doing. On the afternoon of December 8 on the Senate floor, Byron Dorgon of North Dakota expressed shock at Wachovia's purchase and lease-back of German sewer system, just so it could use the depreciation of the German pipes to avoid its U.S. taxes.  Now that Wachovia is being bought -- by Wells Fargo and not as Washington wanted Citigroup -- is it easy to finally criticize it and its outgoing management.

Update of December 1, 2008:  From the mail bag --

Subj: Reporting a Wells Fargo Issue 

From: [Name withheld in this format]

To: Inner City Press

Date: 11/15/2008 12:39:20 P.M. Eastern Standard Time

Hi, after reading your “Wells Fargo Watch” page I wanted to share a Wells Fargo story with you, in hopes that you will post it. I am most curious to find out if other Wells Fargo employees have suffered the same fate as my husband. I am trying to write this account carefully so as not to reveal my husband’s identity. However, should you need more details to confirm the story, please let me know.

 My husband is – or was -- a personal banker with Wells Fargo. Over a month ago, one of his regular customers presented a $4,000 check for deposit to her account. My husband followed Wells Fargo security procedures to deposit the check to the woman’s account, cautioning her that the funds would not be available to her for at least 4 business days. Unfortunately, the check proved fraudulent, part of the widespread and apparently sophisticated “mystery shopper” scam. The customer, who claims to have been duped by the offer she received in the mail, had already sent $3,500 to the scammers’ account.

 Despite the fact that Wells Fargo employees all over the U.S. and Canada have accepted these fraudulent checks for deposit, my husband was singled out – as far as we know – by Wells Fargo, and accused of complicity in the mystery shopper scheme. Wells Fargo immediately placed him on “paid administrative leave, pending investigation”. He was instructed not to contact any Wells Fargo team member, but to await a call from a local Wells Fargo Human Resources representative. Twelve days later, Wells Fargo stopped his paycheck. To this day, four weeks later, Wells Fargo has still not contacted us, and the Human Resources representative has not returned any of my husband’s numerous phone calls.

Needless to say, this has been a financial disaster for our family. Not only have we lost my husband’s paycheck, as far as we know he has also lost his job. If he is terminated under these conditions he will be unable to “bond” to work as a banker ever again, so in that case he’s lost his career as well. Worse, without an official termination from Wells Fargo, he cannot apply for unemployment compensation, or request payment for his accrued paid leave, etc. He is essentially in limbo.

We consulted an attorney, only to learn that there is absolutely nothing we can do about this situation, we can’t force Wells Fargo to respond to us. And if Wells Fargo does eventually terminate him, we cannot challenge it: we reside in an “employ at will” state, in which a company may terminate any employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all.

I’m writing this because I’d like to know if any other Wells Fargo employees have been terminated for accepting these mystery shopper scam checks.

Update of November 10, 2008: How will the bailout funds be used? For opportunistic mergers, as we noted last week. And now we can say, for political contributions and lobbying. ICP Fair Finance Watch was interviewed on November 7 about the use of funds by Wells Fargo:

" Wells Fargo & Co., which announced a deal for Wachovia last month, gave out nearly $1 million through its PAC in this election cycle, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission reports. Wachovia Corp. PACs gave $1.2 million. Wells Fargo & Co., which announced a deal for Wachovia last month, gave out nearly $1 million through its PAC.... Wells Fargo spent $3.6 million lobbying federal officials over the same period."

  There is no commitment that the bailout funds will not be put to these uses.

Update of October 27, 2008: From Dow Jones on the Fed's self-approval of Wells Fargo - Wachovia: " The Fed said a commenter had requested a public meeting, but the Bank Holding Company Act does not require the board to grant that request. A Federal Reserve spokeswoman wouldn't disclose the name of the group that had requested the hearing." So now, like North Korea, the Fed tries to cover up even who has commented. For the record, ICP Fair Finance Watch made the request...

Update of October 20, 2008: It's telling, in terms of how sloppy the corporate giveaways have been, that neither the Fed nor Treasury thought through how buying warrants in Wells Fargo would put Wells in the position of reducing book value or recording a loss. Expect the rule changing for the biggest banks to continue...

Update of October 13, 2008: Tales for a time of lawless regulators giving rubber stamp bank merger approvals without any public notice or comment -- while Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has already commented to the Fed demanding they hold a comment period on Wells Fargo's proposal to buy Wachovia, now Wachovia says it will bypass its own shareholders -- with the NYSE's rubber stamp. Note to Fed: this doesn't make it an emergency to bypass the public too. But the Fed on Friday said, vaguely, that it will begin "immediate consideration" of Wells Fargo's application.  But no FDIC involvement = no emergency.

Update of October 6, 2008: With Wells Fargo's announcement that is it outbidding Citigroup for Wachovia, and would consummate its proposal, without FDIC assistance, by the end of the year the question arises: how could the regulators bypass public notice and comment on a transaction that has no FDIC involvement?

  Citigroup's low-ball $2.16 billion supposed deal, announced Monday, had rubberstamp approval with no public notice or comment, including under the Community Reinvestment Act on CitiFinancial's widespread involvement in controversial subprime lending.  Now, in the face of Wells Fargo's announced, the regulators have rushed out a strange press release:

Statement by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency

A new proposal to acquire Wachovia has emerged from Wells Fargo.  The Citigroup proposal has undergone extensive review by the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  We have not yet reviewed the new Wells Fargo proposal and the issues that it raises.  The regulators will be working with the parties to achieve an outcome that protects all Wachovia creditors, including depositors, insured and uninsured, and promotes market stability. 

  The scuttlebutt is that the regulators, although having no basis to waive public participation this time, are considering doing it, among other things to equalize the playing field between Citigroup's and Wells Fargo's bid. It is clear which bid is financial superior -- but Wells Fargo, too, has been involved in predatory lending, through Wells Fargo Financial and overseas.  Some advocates are saying they prefer the Wells proposal on the basis that it should finally allow some public process in the spate of supposedly emergency mergers and conversions.

Update of August 25, 2008:  From the mailbag -

Subj: Wells Fargo Mortgage Complaint 

From: [Name withheld in this format]

To: Inner City Press

Date: 8/15/2008 12:58:48 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time

Hello, I found your website today. My dealings with America's Servicing Company owned by Wells Fargo has been a constant struggle. Today, I am mailing a complaint to the Texas Dept. of Banking and Mortgage Lending as well to Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Committee on Financial services. The committee passed HR 5579 which directed lenders to speed the loan modification process. I made my request to ASC/Wells Fargo in April 2008. I have yet to receive a response. Also, I have been unable to speak to anyone who might be 'working' on the loan modification.

 Yep, that's Wells Fargo...

Update of August 4, 2008: Talk about a conflict of interest, and regulatory capture -- last week, the regulators and four big banks issued coordinated press releases. "Officials from banking giants Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. issued a joint statement saying, 'We look forward to being leading issuers as the U.S. covered bond market develops.'" And those they issued the statement with and for are supposed to objectively oversee them...

Update of May 26, 2008:  In a motion filed last week, Baltimore says Wells Fargo  uses predatory lending practices in Baltimore's predominantly African American neighborhoods "to make a quick profit because it believes it can successfully exploit those communities" by

Charging higher interest rates;
Underwriting certain types of adjustable-rate mortgages without regard for whether the borrower can repay after the initial "teaser" rate expires;
Stripping borrowers' equity through unnecessary refinancings;
Paying rebates to mortgage brokers for inflating interest rates;
Requiring prepayment penalties that prevent borrowers from getting help through refinancing;
Charging excessive points and fees with no corresponding benefits to the borrower.

 
Yep, that sounds like Wells Fargo...

Update of May 12, 2008: This week from the mailbag, from inside Wells Fargo Financial --

Subj: Attention Inner City Press
Date: 5/2/2008 2:10:09 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
From: [Name withheld upon request]
To: Inner City Press

I am currently a Wells Fargo Financial employee.  I didn't know if you would be interested or not but I have some interesting information you may want to look into further.  I've been with Wells Fargo Financial since [redacted to preserve confidentiality of whistleblower].  I came right out of school and landed what I thought was a great career with a great company.  Little did I know that I am actually a consumer lender in the subprime mortgage industry.  Our main product is our Real Estate refinance which is subprime.  The average rate is about 10.5%.  My belief is that wells fargo financial is now downsizing and have found a clever way to lay off a lot of employees without getting into headlines as officially laying people off.  We have seen a huge decline over the last six months.  I come from a smaller state, last year around march of 2007 we had 50-some full time selling employees.  We are now down to 20-some.  People are leaving left and right and I am hoping to get out of here by the end of summer.  I am an assistant branch manager.  I have two points of interest that I would like to let you in on to see what your opinion is about the situation.

Point number 1:  New Performance Improvement Plan process (The PIP process as it is referred to here regarding the process of terminating a team member)

The process used to be that if you did not book 100k of new money lent over a 2 month period you were given a month to do at least 50k and over the next three months to book 150k total of new money to get off of the PIP. If you did not reach this, the company could recommend termination.  It has only happened to two team members since I have been with the company. 

The new pip process is as follows, if you have one month without doing 50k of new money you can be recommended for termination.  You have the following month to do 50k and if you do not you are out basically.  Another process that has changed recently that leads me to believe that we are currently downsizing is that processor role in our branches.  A processor processing all of the payoffs, paid outs, deals with title work, and insurance as well as ordering supplies for the branch and maintaining the current loan pipeline.  Every branch had one processor, until this month.  There are only 3 main processors in our district now, (there are 7 branches in our district)  the other 4 have now been placed into part time, glorified secretary rolls.  A processor now has up to 2-3 branches each to process for and did not receive any type of pay increase as a result outside of performance branch based bonuses.  Some of the part-timers have already decided to quit and there isn't any rush to replace them.

Point Number 2: Sub-Prime loans and Prime loans or (A-Paper Loans)

Our business model is confused.  We are supposed to be subprime lenders, we sell to customers with 620 or below fico scores, that is our target market.  Anyone who has been in a sales position knows that sales is about persistence, hard work, and of course leads.  Our lead base is mainly retail sales finance accounts (ex: tractor supplies financing, heating and cooling, carpet, furniture stores etc.)  Most of these customers usually finance with 12 months same as cash periods or 24 months same as cash periods etc.  Lately things are tight you basically have to have at least somewhat decent credit to get approved for this financing.  Somewhat decent credit is above 620 fico score.  Most of these retail sales accounts are 700 credit score customers and so forth.  Our job is to call these customers and service those accounts and cross sell, credit cards, auto loan refinancing to pay off credit cards, and most importantly real estate restructuring.  Taking the equity you have in your home to combo other bills to put them into one ultimate loan with a lower payment and hopefully an overall lower total payback (which is rare).

Most of these customers could go to their bank and do the same thing at a much lower interest rate. Our company doesn't want us selling prime loans because we don't make money on these loans.  If we book a loan and it ends up going prime we do not receive credit for it as a unit or a loan.  We do get paid 175 bucks for each prime loan we book but if you do nothing but prime loans you will show no new money credit for these loans and zero units thus making it look like you didn't do anything.  As a result you would be pipped and begin the process of termination.  There is a way for us to keep a prime customer from going prime, if we can convince the credit grade A, no matter what the fico score it could be and 850, to take a loan over 91% of the total loan value (example 100k home value, 91k loan amount) it will not go prime. 

The tricky part is this, we as team members do not know what rate the customer will qualify for, we have a matrix, every customer falls into a certain pricing non-prime grade meaning a 720 credit score can come up and it will show up as a 10% rate but if you go below 91% ltv it will show that it can be recommended for prime pricing. 

Let me give you a recent example:

I had a 736 fico customer coming in wanting to do a 124k total loan on a home he just had appraised about 6 months ago for 137k.  The appraisal itself was done by a friend of the customers to purposefully bring it down because the loan he was trying to complete was the result of a divorce.  I still took the chance and put in the total value as 137k.  At a 124k total loan his total interest rate quoted was 9.38%.  He had no choice, because of the way he was paid the bank would not cash flow him but we are very conservative as well but we were able to legitamitly cash flow him for the loan.  (wells fargo doesn't mess around when it comes to cash flowing loans, we get heavy documentation) We got an appraisal done (wells fargo also doesn't mess around when it comes to appraisals, we have absolutely no contact with the appraisers, we have a separate company that we pay to have the contact) the appraisal came back for 185k.  So obviously at this point, it would be tough for me to get this loan up to 91% ltv.  For me it was simple, i want to do the right thing but at the same time i have to book loans, they put pressure on you to book it subprime, i tried like hell to sell 91% loan and nearly succeeded.  The customer ended up only taking an extra 15k which still kept it below the 91% required to keep it from going prime.  Still at this point i am not able to disclose to the customer that all he had to simply do was take any loan under 91% and he would simply sign the final pricing disclosure showing a 9.38% rate but after a final review it will come back and give him a 5.5% -7% loan.  I still had to sell with the customer having the intentions he would be getting a 9.38% rate.  We sent up the final pricing disclosure it was recognized as prime and the customer ended up with a 5.5% fixed rate for 30 years to his surprise and glee.  That turned out great, of course it looks like I never booked a loan.  Second scenario would have been if the customer had agreed to take an extra 60k out putting him over the 91% ltv mark and thus keeping the loan at 9.38% for a 720 fico customer.  We can never inform them of this until after they agree to a higher rate like that is what they are getting and they get a prime loan.  If i would have booked this loan subprime in that particular month i would have received over 1k in total bonus money.  Instead, I didn't hit the mark required for bonus money and only received the 175k for booking a prime loan. 

This is of course a Cover Your Ass scenario for wells fargo but believe me, it is not a good thing to book a prime loan, i had my district manager yelling at me for not being able to sell the extra 60k because once it is prime it doesn't count for the branches records, or the districts record or the regions record.  No one gets credit. 

That is my fundamental reason for wanting to leave wells fargo financial.  I know we are in business to make money, but not at the expense of humanity. 

   We aim to have more on this...

Update of May 5, 2008:  from the Washington Post of May 2 we have the story of the owner of the Shark Club of Bethesda, John A. Tsiaoushis, in league with a gaggle of predatory lenders including Wells Fargo. For a house on Pennycress Lane, in January 2005, while Tsiaoushis owed more than $588,000 on the mortgage, he sold the house without repaying it. Court records show he created documents purportedly from the mortgage company, opened a post office box in Beltsville and had the settlement company send checks totaling $586,000 to the "mortgage company's" post office box, which Tsiaoushis then deposited. Using friends and associates, Tsiaoushis helped refinance the house for subsequent buyers. In each case, checks settling the transactions were sent to post office boxes opened by Tsiaoushis, court records show, after he presented phony documents indicating that all liens had been resolved. Court records show that CitiFinancial of Falls Church paid more than $670,000 in a refinancing scam; Accredited Home Lenders of San Diego paid $891,000 to "buy" the house; and Wells Fargo in Alexandria lent $585,000 in a refinancing scheme. First Franklin Financial of San Jose, which made the original, legitimate mortgage on the house, is owed $588,000, court records show."

   When sleazy lender First Franklin is the "legitimate" lender in a story, and CitiFinancial and Wells Fargo come in later without any due diligence, you get a picture of the corporate role in the current crisis....

Update of April 14, 2008: As Wells Fargo claimed to cut back on subprime lending in 2007, a new ICP Fair Finance Watch study has found that Wells continued making super high cost loans subject to the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) -- that is, at least eight percent over comparable Treasury securities. Using 2007 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data that was required to be released on March 31, ICP Fair Finance Watch has found that Wells Fargo, while making 381 HOEPA loans in 2007, placed African Americans in subprime loans 2.43 times more frequently than whites, and denied the applications of Hispanics 1.56 times more frequently than whites. The HMDA data for 2007 is the fourth year in which the data distinguishes which loans are over the FRB-defined "rate spread," of three percent over the yield on Treasury securities of comparable duration on first lien loans, five percent on subordinate liens.  More analysis will follow.

Update of March 10, 2008: Foreclosure tale from New York, by a charter-bus driver in the East Bronx who has a mortgage payment that went from $2,482 to $3,500 a month. I had a two-year teaser rate, now going up every six months to a maximum of 13.2 percent, "I spoke to Wells Fargo.  I tried to get them to keep the rate at the teaser rate, 6.8 percent...  I'm in a home that cost us $35,000 in the sixties. We refinanced three times, and we owe $400,000."

Update of March 3, 2008: Now Wells Fargo must file reports on its mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Information from October 2007 through February is due by March 31. Better late than never.

Update of January 21, 2008: In further chickens-coming-home-to-roost news, Wells posted its first decline in earnings in six years, with profits down 38%...

Update of January 14, 2008: Wells Fargo was sued last week by the City of Baltimore for predatory and discriminatory lending. The U.S. Conference of Mayors projected that 361 metropolitan areas would take an economic hit of $166 billion in 2008 because of the foreclosure crisis. The Baltimore area was expected to lose more than $1.6 billion in economic output, according to the Conference of Mayors...

Update of July 2, 2007: The National Association of Securities Dealers has fined Wells Fargo Securities LLC $250,000 for not disclosing that a series of research reports about Cadence Design Systems Inc. were written by an analyst who was seeking a job with the semiconductor designer...

Update of May 21, 2007: From a report last week, 2006 subprime mortgage volume and status of Wells Fargo  $27,869  Restated B&C volume, cut jobs, tightened menu.

Update of April 30, 2007: The Case of Wells Fargo and the Squishy Bed, Abusive Calls

From: [Name withheld in this format]
Date: 4/26/2007 10:37:42 AM
To:  Inner City Press

Subject: Wells Fargo
 Hello, In April 2006 I purchased a set of mattresses from a local furniture company, Banner Mattress.  Their finance service is with Wells Fargo. The terms were no interest until 2010.  I was never told there were to be minimum payments or when/if they were due. 
 Years ago I purchased new appliances from Home Depot and had the same terms.  I chose to pay them off in full on the date it was due.  I did so with no problem. Well immediately I started receiving phone calls from Wells Fargo telling me I was late and would be charged a $35.00 late charge.  I told them that's impossible I have a no interest loan until 2010.  Needless to say I paid them through my online banking account the $35.00 plus $35.00 late charge=$70.00.  There was no date given as to what would be a PAYMENT DATE.  Another time I spoke with the caller and
when I asked why they kept calling me after I paid them he shouted at me and said they never received the payment.  While talking to him I went to the bank's web page and pulled the payment history for Wells Fargo.  Not only had they received payment it told me the day and each month thereafter a payment for $35.00  He told me he would call me non-stop if he had to.  They continued to call/harass me NINE times a day SEVEN days a week.  I stopped answering the phone when I saw it was them. 
The pillow top mattress slowly became defective four months after I got it.  I thought I was imagining it as the salesman specifically told me it would "bounce back immediately".  After stopping into the store I was told to give it some time.  I did to the point I was waking up each night and the next morning with a terrible backache.  I then sent an e mail to Simmons explaining the problem which they never responded to.  I again went to the store and insisted he make a formal complaint.  With that he sent someone out to measure the depth of the permanent
depression=1 3/4". 
 The store contacted me a week later and told me their representative from Simmons said they would replace it.  At this point with all the hassle from Wells Fargo and now a defective mattress, I said no, I wanted my money back.  The store called back and said their Simmons contact refuses to return the mattress.  I then called Simmons myself and was rudely told the same thing by someone there.  At this point I called the store back and told them the same thing I did Simmons, fine I would write a letter to the Attorney General's office and to the BBB.  Debbie at the store told me to hold off as I wasn't the only one having problems with Simmons and she would see what she could do.  A week later she called back and said they would return it and repay me what I had paid Wells Fargo. 
Herein lies the problem.  I paid Wells Fargo $245.00 in 2006 and $105.00 in 2007(online bank statements as proof).  They told Banner I would only receive $280.00 back as I had 8 late charges of $25.00 each.  The store and I both do not understand how they can say this as that is not what the salesman presented as the contract when purchasing the mattresses.  Before I call Wells Fargo I would like to know what I can tell them to get my full refund?  How do you fight a company who treats their customers as badly as they do by harassing phone calls each and every day to an obsessive amount of nine times? 

Update of April 23, 2007: From the mailbag --

Subj: Wells Fargo Auto Finance 

Date: 3/27/2007

From: [Name withheld in this format]

To: Inner City Press

 I purchased a vehicle in February of 2006.  It was financed through Wells Fargo Auto Finance.  From February to November everything was fine.  Then everything started to unravel.  We made our November and December payments.  Then on December 28th, we got a phone call from collections saying that we were 9 days late on our December

payment.  I assured them that we were not.  I told them the payment was made on December 19th.  They informed me that payment was to cover November's payment.

I went back to check my bank statements.  The November payment cleared on the 21st of November.  The December payment cleared on the 22nd.

Come to find out, Wells Fargo received my November payment, but claims to have reversed that payment and sent it back.  Unfortunately, that money was never received by me or my bank.  So I faxed my bank statements showing the payment being deducted from my account and a confirmation number showing it going to Wells Fargo.

I get 4 to 5 calls from collections everyday, unless I ask to be removed from the call pool.  Then I only get calls every 5th day.  They claim that I am behind.  They are assessing $10 late fees all over the place and reporting my payment history to the credit bureaus.  All because they cannot see that they made a simple mistake and correct it.

Do you think that anyone has actually taken the time to apologize for all of this?  One person named Wayne was very apologetic...and I felt he was sincere.  I have talked to approximately 100 people...and only one had the guts to say that Wells Fargo should not be taking this long to correct the issue. As others have stated, I will never again do business with Wells Fargo.

Update of April 2, 2007: From the mailbag --

Subj: Wells Fargo Auto Finance 
Date: 3/27/2007 10:29:50 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: [Name withheld in this format]
To: Inner City Press

 I purchased a vehicle in February of 2006.  It was financed through Wells Fargo Auto Finance.  From February to November everything was  fine.  Then everything started to unravel.  We made our November and December payments.  Then on December 28th, we got a phone call from collections saying that we were 9 days late on our December payment.  I assured them that we were not.  I told them the payment
was made on December 19th.  They informed me that payment was to cover Novembers payment. I went back to check my bank statements.  The November payment  cleared on the 21st of November.  The December payment cleared on the 22nd.
Come to find out, Wells Fargo received my November payment, but claims to have reversed that payment and sent it back.  Unfortunately, that money was never received by me or my bank.  So I faxed my bank statements showing the payment being deducted from my account and a confirmation number showing it going to Wells Fargo.
I get 4 to 5 calls from collections everyday, unless I ask to be removed from the call pool.  Then I only get calls every 5th day.  They claim that I am behind.  They are assessing $10 late fees all over the place and reporting my payment history to the credit bureaus.  All because they cannot see that they made a simple mistake and correct it.
Do you think that anyone has actually taken the time to apologize for all of this?  One person named Wayne was very apologetic...and I felt he was sincere.  I have talked to approximately 100 people...and only one had the guts to say that Wells Fargo should not be taking this long to correct the issue.
I am getting ready to turn this over to the Better Business Bureau.  Hopefully the can help me out.  Because as we all know, Wells Fargo is not doing it. As others have stated, I will never again do business with Wells Fargo.

Update of March 5, 2007: From the mail bag:

Subj: Wells Fargo And ASC 

From: [Name withheld in this format at] malmstrom.af.mil

To: Inner City Press

I have been with Wells Fargo for a number of years. Not been a stellar client as far as my checking account goes I am ashamed to admit. But I am admitting it because it helps make sense of what recently happened. Christmas time I happened upon a secret shopping opportunity through what I thought was a trusted internet site. I proceeded to deposit the check assuming that Wells Fargo verifies funding. They held the check and released the money to me. As I turns out I was defrauded and the cashier’s check was stolen. When I asked Wells Fargo what happened to the verification, they stated that, “We only verify checks that are suspicious.” I told them that I had not been a stellar client and didn’t they think that a deposit of $4700 to an account that has NEVER had $4700 in it before would be suspicious? I mentioned to them that they at one time held a check for $300 from my father for three days. They are still holding me responsible for the money!

 And they also sold my mortgage to ASC where I have had many problems with billing. Lost checks, late payments, etc. I had no idea that this info existed. Suppose I will be refinancing now!

Update of February 26, 2007: Wells Fargo last week gave WARN Act notices to 250 subprime lending workers in South Carolina...

Update of January 1, 2007: We begin the year with a blind item. Which person recently ejected from Wells Fargo Mortgage in Milwaukee after being charged with race discrimination has resurfaced at Chase Mortgage? And isn't there some duty to tell future employers, to protect future consumers?

Update of November 20, 2006: Wells Fargo Auto Finance brags that its "Full Spectrum Pricing'' program enables the bank to serve prime and nonprime customers -- more predatory lending...

Last week Inner City Press sat down for an interview with the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Arkady Ghoukasyan, and asked him about the fires, about the United Nations and other matters. Click here for the footage, on Google Video.

Update of October 2, 2006: Florida is suing a "Tampa-area company called Global Information Group Inc., claiming it made thousands of calls impersonating customers of companies including Verizon Communications Inc., tricking them into providing private call records. Earlier this year the company's principals agreed to pay $250,000 to settle the case, and to cease any pretexting activities." Global Information's customers include Wells Fargo...

Update of August 28, 2006: Wells Fargo sleaze, from the LA Times: Wells Fargo's supposed safeguards for detecting illicit banking activities by terrorists, drug smugglers and other criminals were so weak that federal regulators should have publicly reprimanded the San Francisco-based bank, according to a Treasury Department report released last week. Instead, senior banking regulators met with Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich, then overruled their own staff by letting Wells off with an informal enforcement action -- sparing Wells the scrutiny and embarrassment suffered by other banks that have been forced to disclose that regulators faulted their oversight systems. 

"We believe that [the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] should have acted more quickly and forcefully to require Wells to strengthen its compliance and that OCC's failure to take formal enforcement action against Wells sent the wrong message to the banking industry about OCC's resolve to ensure that banks comply" with the Bank Secrecy Act, the inspector general's report said. The OCC staff recommended Feb. 4, 2005, that a formal cease-and-desist order be issued to Wells Fargo. Dick Kovacevich met five days later with top OCC officials, including Acting Comptroller of the Currency Julie Williams, who was then running the agency. After that meeting, the OCC pulled the recommended action from consideration by its top supervisory review committee, according to the report. On April 12, 2005, a new memo was issued recommending that the agency take informal action. Who's put at risk by Wells Fargo's laxities? For or with more information, contact us.

Update of July 31, 2006: More Wells and furniture: "El Dorado Furniture's success with its private-label credit card program has earned it the Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services Client Award.  Wells Fargo presents the award to deserving clients based on program participation and credit card sales volume.  'We are honored to be recognized for our successful partnership,' said Robert Capo, vice president of the nine-store Florida retailer"...

Update of July 24, 2006: Wells Fargo last week missed Wall Street earnings expectations by a penny in the second-quarter because it sold off adjustable rate mortgages and debt securities in the quarter at a $250 million loss. In Wells furniture news, this: "La-Z-Boy is a brand name consumers have known and trusted for close to 80 years," said Dan Abbott, president of Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services. 'We look forward to helping them continue to build brand awareness and attract new customers with the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries MasterCard credit card program.'" What's next? Water beds?

Update of July 17, 2006: Wells Fargo is the eighth largest services of subprime mortgages in the country, with $25 billion, an increase of 3.39 percent from the year before...

Update of July 10, 2006:  Indictment from another angle: environmental advocates note that Wells Fargo has invested millions of dollars in Massey Energy, which they say is destroying Appalachian communities with mountaintop coal removal...

Update of July 3, 2006: From Canada NewsWire of June 27: "Wells Fargo Financial Canada is looking for a bigger share of the non-prime mortgage market"...

Update of June 26, 2006: Mattress work, from a press release last week: "Mattress Firm, the No. 1 retailer of Sealy Mattress products, was recently honored as a recipient of the Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services Client Award... 'Mattress Firm continues to demonstrate its commitment to acquiring new customers and encouraging repeat purchases'... said Mark Hicks, senior vice president for Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services." 

Update of June 19, 2006: From "The Oregonian" newspaper of June 15:

"Federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act statistics analyzed by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, for example, show that single women took out 13,246 home mortgages in the Portland area in 2005, about 20 percent of all loans for purchases. That's roughly in line with the Realtor association's national average. The numbers crunched by Wells Fargo also suggest, however, that single males made 16,389 purchases in the Portland area during the same period, or 25 percent. That's significantly higher than the association's numbers. The problem is that the two sets of numbers don't allow for apples-to-apples comparisons. Walter Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, said the federal HMDA numbers don't include cash purchases and mortgages from small lenders. So they show only part of the picture, he concludes."

  So now Wells Fargo is "crunching" HMDA data for newspapers? But Wells Fargo elsewhere says that HMDA data don't prove anything....

Update of June 12, 2006: From the mail bag:

Subject: Fair Finance Watch

From: [Name withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

Sent: Fri, 9 Jun 2006 10:53:14 -0400

   Fact of impossibility- My husband and I were recently approved for financing by Prosperity Mortgage (brokers affiliated with Wells Fargo) at 58% debt to income ratio. Our current annual salary puts us at the 28% federal income tax bracket. It is obvious that we do not have the means to make the payments of these expenses. How is it possible that we were approved if the payments are impossible to make? Aren’t mortgage companies in the business of making money- not reselling properties that have been foreclosed upon?

  You'd think...

Update of May 15, 2006: In all the talk of Wachovia's Golden West deal last week, the Charlotte Observer noted that it makes any "link up" between Wells Fargo and Wachovia less likely. So where might Wells go? Fifth Third? Damaged goods...

Update of May 8, 2006:  It's happened again. On May 5, Wells Fargo announced by press release that a computer containing confidential data about mortgage customers and prospective customers was missing and may have been stolen. Wells blamed it on "a global express shipping company" that had been delivering the computer from one of the bank's facilities to another. The missing data include names, addresses, Social Security numbers and mortgage loan deposit numbers....

Update of May 1, 2006:  Corporate watch -- among the companies served or previously served by those who last week won Wells Fargo board elections by Saddam Hussein-like margins are US WEST, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Pacific Telesis Group, Agensys, Foster Pepper PLLC, General Mills, SUPERVALU INC., and T-Mobile. Calling all...

Update of April 24, 2006: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has conducted a comparative study of 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, this time focused on New York City, and has found Wells Fargo denied applications from The Bronx three times more frequently than applications from Manhattan in 2005. Meanwhile, in Des Moines last week, Dick Kovacevich bragged that "Our growth here is nothing short of phenomenal. One out of every 245 Iowans works for Wells Fargo." No talk of the underlying corporate welfare, nor of Wells' questionable subprime lending...

Update of April 10, 2006: The 2005 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data, which Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch received in late March from Wells Fargo, reveal that, considering all conventional first-lien loans, Wells Fargo in 2005 confined African Americans to rate spread loans 3.31 times more frequently than whites. The Federal Reserve has defined higher-cost loans as those loans with annual percentage rates above the rate spread of three percent over the yield on Treasury securities of comparable duration on first lien loans, five percent on subordinate liens. More analysis will be forthcoming. For now, we note that in 2005, Wells Fargo made 795 super high-cost loans subject to the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) -- that is, using one definition, at least eight percent over comparable Treasury securities. Usury, anyone? Developing.

Update of April 3, 2006: At the subprime lender Wells Fargo Financial, the beat goes on, from West Coast to East. In the news last week, in Lancaster, California at the Lancaster Town Center mall at 10th Street West and Avenue K.  And east in Florida,  at Wells Fargo Financial America Inc., 3280 N. John Young Parkway in Kissimmee. Predatory lending is on the move...

Update of March 27, 2006: the Federal Reserve has now asked about Santander's acquisition from Wells Fargo of the subprime lender Island Finance, asking for detail on Santander's due diligence on Island. Santander responds that it will file by March 29, and that it considered much about Island Finance, including Home Mortgage Disclosure Act compliance. We'll see...

Update of March 6, 2006: Payday lender ACE Cash Express last week put out a press release bragging that that it has "amended its existing bank credit facility" with the involvement of Wells Fargo Bank is the Administrative Agent and Co-Lead Arranger."

Update of February 27, 2006: Some are citing the Des Moines parking lot of predator Wells Fargo Financial as a good example of eminent domain. But wasn't / isn't it rather corporate welfare?

Update of February 20, 2006: Wells’ sell-off to Santander of Island Finance in Puerto Rico was rubber stamped by the FTC last week, via an early termination of the waiting period required under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act…

Updated February 13, 2006:  From the Buffalo News of Feb. 6: “In New York State, Wells employs 1,430 in offices in 47 cities. Its businesses statewide include Acordia, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Wells Fargo Century, Wells Fargo Equipment Finance, Wells Fargo Securities and Wells Fargo Financial.” That last one is the subprime… Also on Feb. 6, Wells Fargo announced via press release that “it has expanded its association with NASCAR's Petty Enterprises beyond Wells Fargo Financial, its consumer finance business, to encompass Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and all the company's business groups.” Petty subprime…

Update of February 6, 2006: In the run-up to Super Bowl XL in Detroit, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has analyzed mortgage lending patterns in the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area in the most recent year for which data is available, 2004. At Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., American Americans were over 7.2 times more likely to be confined to higher cost loans than whites, and Hispanics were over 2.8 times more likely to be confined to higher cost loans than non-Hispanic whites…

Update of January 30, 2006:  Santander has announced a proposal to acquire the problematic subprime lender Island Finance (on which ICP has previously commented to the FRB) from Wells Fargo. ICP first became aware of Wells Fargo's subprime lender Island Finance in 1997, when the company (1) opened an office at 2866 Third Avenue in the South Bronx which charged 25% interest rates to all customers, without regard to credit history, then (2) closed the office and required the customers they'd lured to travel to a Wells Fargo Financial office in Queens or have "lates" imposed on their credit history (see sVillage Voice of July 15, 1997). Wells' Island Finance is (sub-) headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has branches in Panama, Aruba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Netherlands Antilles. It is a high-rate lender, and is also embroiled in litigation with its employees. See, e.g., Jagroop v. Island Fin. V.I., Inc., (U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Island, Division of St. Croix), 240 F. Supp. 2d 370; 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25153. Tellingly, Wells CEO Dick Kovacevich lobbied in person in May 2002 against a proposal in the Puerto Rican legislature, House Bill 1288, to impose a usury cap of 19.75%. See, Caribbean Business, May 16, 2002, quoting 27% interest rates and Kovacevich that, with the proposed rate cap, " I feel I’m being told Wells Fargo is not welcome in Puerto Rico... I don’t want to be threatening, just factual," and characterizing Wells as the U.S.'s "number one 'NAFTA bank,' with more banking stores and assets than any competitor within 60 miles of Mexico and Canada."  In acquiring Island Finance, Kovacevich said that it portended further expansion into other Latin American markets." (PR Newswire of May 4, 1995.) At the time, Wells stated that it had recently also "acquired Reliable Financial Services, Inc., an auto finance company headquartered in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, which manages $200 million in receivables." (PR Newswire of January 12, 1998.) Wells also lists "Island Finance" subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, British West Indies, and in Trinidad and Tobago -- these are apparently not proposed to be acquired by Santander, although the precise scope of Santander’s proposal needs to be inquired into, publicly, by the Federal Reserve Board... .

Update of January 23, 2006: Pretending to be green, last week Wells Fargo announced the hiring of a new “of head of environmental finance.” He’s Barry Neal, previously a founding partner of El Paso Energy Corp.'s EP Power Finance LLC. How very environmental…

  From the mailbag:

Subject: Wells Fargo Financial - Unfair and miss leading Business Practices
Date: 1/18/2006 12:20:37 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [Name withheld]
To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I like to share this with your readers so to warn them of this injustice. I took a loan for $7,500 in July of 2002 for home improvement from Wells Fargo Financial.  The loan was broken down to 60 installments of  $182.38 totaling to 1,0942.80 from which $3,442.80 was the interests for 60 months.  I paid off the loan after I got my first statement in July of 2002.   As of December of 2005, I have been receiving statements for the amount of $182.38. 
I am told that although I paid off $7,500 I paid it towards my payments ahead of time and not paid off the loan.  So after 3 years, I still owe Wells Fargo the interest on the original $7,500, which amounts to $3,442.80.   I spoke to the Customer service on the phone and he kept saying the same thing and was unwilling to get that I cannot owe any finance charges if I paid of the original loan.
I am surprised how a large financial institution will not understand basic mathematics and is playing such tricks on their customers.     After having a saving account with this organization for over 20 years, I plan to close my accounts and move on with a more reliable and honest organization with some integrity.

Update of January 9, 2006: Last week’s American Banker reminds of Wells and money laundering: “industry observers said the [new OCC] guidance was a clear response to questions raised last year about its supervision of Wells Fargo & Co. Senior OCC managers overturned the recommendations of field examiners that Wells receive a formal cease-and-desist order for anti-laundering lapses. A February memo recommended a public enforcement action, but after a meeting between Julie Williams, then the acting comptroller, and Richard Kovacevich, the chief executive officer of Wells, the memo was redrafted to recommend a less strict, nonpublic action…. The Treasury Department's inspector general is investigating the matter and is expected to issue a report next month.”

Update of December 26, 2005:  The NASD on December 19 fined Wells Fargo $3 million, for abusive fund sale practices: steering investors into inappropriate fund share classes. Instead of selling class A shares Wells Fargo pushed class B and class C shares, which were less suited to the investors' needs, the NASD said. So: predatory in fund sales too…

Update of December 19, 2005: an APB from Salem, Oregon, where an employee of the subprime Wells Fargo Financial has moved over to the supposedly prime Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. Bringing predatory lending along? He could be asked – he’s pitching his number, at 503-982-2788… Higher up, selling at the top. Insiders at Wells, including Dick Kovacevich, sold a net 120,091 shares this quarter, according to SEC filings…

Update of December 12, 2005: Last week Wells CEO Dick Kovacevich said the company isn't interested in buying a stake in GMAC, stating that it wouldn't fit with Wells Fargo's usual strategy of not being a partial owner of business lines. This seems inconsistent with Wells' many "joint ventures" in mortgages, including subprime mortgages...

Update of December 5, 2005: Military personnel on active duty are being overcharged on high interest loans by banks including Wells Fargo, a new investigation of compliance with the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has uncovered.  Through documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, ICP had documented widespread violations of the SCRA, defrauding and overcharging of those in active military service, and regulatory inertia in dealing with the abuses.

            The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, at 50 USCS Appendix Section 527(1)(a) provides that “An obligation or liability bearing interest at a rate in excess of 6 percent per year that is incurred by a servicemember, or the servicemember and the servicemember's spouse jointly, before the servicemember enters military service shall not bear interest at a rate in excess of 6 percent per year during the period of military service.”

            The purpose of the SCRA, formerly known as the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act, is to provide interest rate relief and other protections “to servicemembers of the United States to enable such persons to devote their entire energy to the defense needs of the Nation.” Section 502.

  Wells Fargo’s practices are reflected in the complaint to the OCC now online at www.innercitypress.org/wellsscra54.jpg

“On [ ] January 2003, my Army Reserve Unit, the [REDACTED] received notification of mobilization and deployment to the Persian Gulf area. Within days I received my individual mobilization order, which specifically stated I was mobilized in accordance with Title 10, a Presidential call up, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I contacted Wells Fargo whom I had 2 home equity accounts with, and advised of my mobilization and the fact that I was eligible to receive a reduced interest rate of 6% on my two outstanding home equity accounts per the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 194[0]… In mid July 2003 I returned to my residence from the Persian Gulf at which time I learned from my wife that Wells Fargo never reduced our interest rate to 6% as is required by Federal law…”

  ICP will be pursuing these issues further. For or with more information, contact us.

Update of November 28, 2005: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch is analyzing Gulf Coast mortgage lenders in the Katrina-zone, identifying those which in 2004 had the worst disparities between the percentage of African American and white borrowers who were charged higher costs, over the Federally-defined rate spread of 3% over comparable Treasury securities on a first lien loan, 5% on subordinate liens.  Interim results including this finding, that in the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area, Wells Fargo Bank, NA in 2004 was 3.4 times more likely to confine African Americans to higher cost rates spread loans than whites…

Update of November 21, 2005: Wells Fargo disclosed  last week that the “increased level of consumer bankruptcies filed before new bankruptcy laws took effect Oct. 17 will widen its fourth-quarter net loan charge-offs by an estimated $175 million, or 7 cents per share, after tax.”  So Wells took a charge for initializing effect. But after that, it’s all gravy...

Update of November 14, 2005: Feeling lucky? Last week Ameristar Casinos announced that that it has a new $1.2 billion senior secured credit facility arranged by... Wells Fargo Bank, N.A..  Meanwhile Wells also served as trustee on securities backed by subprime loans by Option One, which along with its affiliate H&R Block Mortgage makes more than 70% of its mortgages to African Americans in Missouri over the federally defined rate spread, of 3% over comparable Treasuries on a first lien, 5% on subordinate liens...

Update of November 7, 2005:  Wells Fargo has set aside $100 million to cover the impact that Hurricane Katrina might have on its loan portfolio. Howard Atkins, Wells' CFO, told the WSJ that the bank continues to evaluate the impact of Katrina. "We may find we don't need the $100 million," he said...

Update of October 31, 2005: The M&A grapevine tolls for Fifth Third, with publications from New York, Minneapolis and Cincinnati all predicted last week 5/3’s imminent take-over by Wells Fargo. Birds of a CRA-arrogant feather may flock together. We'll see.

Update of October 24, 2005: Wells Fargo Financial saw its profit drop by 53% to $79 million. The company said that was largely because the division set aside $100 million to cover loans it expected to go bad because of Hurricane Katrina. But many of these loans were unaffordable and unsuitable prior to any hurricane...

Update of October 17, 2005: We must of course note the U.S. District Court’s decisions in the cases by the OCC and the Clearing House banks -- including Wells Fargo --against the NY Attorney General, to avoid providing the credit score information they say would justify the racial disparities in their lending. Why should the public believe a defense that they go to court to conceal? Whether or not an appeal is taken, and whether or not it’s successful, the public must demand that the OCC bring enforcement action(s) on Wells Fargo’s disparities, and must separately pursue them, far and wide and ceaseless...

Update of October 10, 2005: We like edgy arts -- but not by predatory lenders. Last week the David Rockefeller-founded Business Committee for the Arts  have an awarded to the Wells’ subprime unit Wells Fargo Financial, which during the construction of its lair in Des Moines, allowed the surrounding wooden fence to become “a canvas for murals by Iowa artists.” How touching...

Update of October 3, 2005: From CNBC of September 25:

BARTIROMO: Now Wells Fargo offers a high percentage of sub-prime lending, and in that kind of lending, you're talking about triple the rate of foreclosures. Is that a concern for you?
KOVACEVICH: Well, we have--you have to price for that risk when you are--the most important thing is that you give borrowers a chance to borrow money. And these are riskier borrowers and you have to charge a higher rate for that risk. But you can't red-line this group. These are people who need loans, who want to buy a home, and we simply charge more for the risk that we're taking. And so far, that has turned out to be a good business for us. But as importantly, it's allowed people to buy homes, get into home ownership, that they wouldn't be able to do if we didn't offer these products to higher-risk, lower-income people.

Question: while not conceding those points, how do they address the non-mortgage part of Wells subprime lending? High cost furniture loans and the like?
 BARTIROMO: And what's your take on the current national post-Katrina story about race divisions in this country and the haves and the have-nots?
KOVACEVICH: Well, I think unfortunately there is some of that. But I think what we all have to do is work together to make sure that we reduce and eliminate any discrimination of any type. And companies, I think, corporate America has to take a leadership position in this because it starts with employment. And if people are employed, you know, they have jobs; they can integrate well into society. And the real tragedy is if you don't have a job, and what we ought to do is make sure that everyone has a job and not discriminate in any way in employment.

   We’ll see...

Update of September 26, 2005:  We've looked closer at Wells Fargo's 2004 lending record, this time in the Nashville MSA, considering which loans are subject to a rate spread (3% higher than comparable Treasuries on a first lien, and 5% on a subordinated lien) -- Wells Fargo  in the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2004

Whites: 2009 originations, 187 over the rate spread (11.81% of loans over the rate spread)

African Americans: 198 origination, 59 (38.02%)  over the rate spread -- 3.20 times higher than for whites...

 Meanwhile, HUD last week announced a $48,000 settlement with Prudential Locations, LLC for violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. HUD found that Prudential's Honolulu real estate brokerage office leased a luxury car, offered vacations and provided other gifts to reward sales agents that referred business to an affiliated mortgage company. Prudential is affiliated with and has a financial interest in Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Hawaii, LLC. HUD's investigation found that Prudential hosted a ‘First Annual Wells Fargo Friends Party’ and invited only those sales agents that referred over $1 million in business to Wells Fargo.  Great...

Update of September 19, 2005: Wells Fargo Financial Acceptance trumpeted its subprime auto loans in Canada, naming its “Stagecoach Award” partners / co-conspirators, including  St. Jean Mazda  of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC.  How do you say predatory lending en francais?

Update of September 12, 2005: From last week’s Mercury-News: “Antonio Lopez and Fabiolo Estrada... said they were contacted in 2003 and 2004 by phone by a broker from Wells Fargo Financial, the San Francisco bank's subprime lending unit. Convinced that refinancing their East San Jose home would help them pay off some department store bills and other debts, the couple refinanced in 2003 into a Wells Fargo loan with an interest rate of about 7.4 percent. Less than a year later, in early 2004, the broker suggested they refinance again to lower their interest rate. They got a 30-year loan with a rate of 6.25 percent for three years, which could rise later when the loan became adjustable. What they didn't realize, they said, was that the two loans were netting Wells Fargo and their loan representative a whopping four "points" each -- $ 27,000 in total fees and commission. It also cost them an additional $ 17,000 for a "prepayment penalty" for paying off the 2003 loan early. And their second loan would probably get steeply more expensive in a few years, requiring them to pay a lot more or refinance yet again. The couple, who had refinanced in the past, say they thought both loans had fixed rates for 30 years, and they didn't know how much they were paying the broker or about the prepayment expense. They said if their loan representative told them, he explained it at "150 miles per hour," Lopez said. "If I knew what I know now, I never would have refinanced so much," Lopez said. Wells Fargo said it cannot discuss the Lopez-Estrada loan, but said four points is standard when making loans to borrowers with subprime credit standing. The bank's senior vice president for its home and consumer finance group, Lynn Greenwood, said Wells Fargo would have taken into account any late payments on any debts, credit score and overall indebtedness when deciding the couple's loan rate.”

Update of September 5, 2005:  On August 30, Wells Fargo announced what it called improvements to its lending practices. Many of the reforms are less meaningful than claimed. For example, any fanfare about dropping mandatory arbitration now that anti-consumer class action reforms have been passed, and the GSEs no longer buy loans with arbitration clauses, is misplaced.  As set forth in Inner City Press’ Gulf Coast Watch, in Louisiana in 2004, over 30% of Wells Fargo’s mortgages in Louisiana were higher cost, rate spread loans.  Click here for more of ICP’s Gulf Coast Watch.

Update of August 29, 2005:  De rumores -- last week the British press was aflutter with the rumor that Wells Fargo would bid on Lloyds TSB. We’ll see...

Update of August 22, 2005:  On the furniture loan beat: "’We have seen favorable results with longer-term promotions, which allow cardholders to spread their payments out over an extended period of time, such as 12, 18 or 24 months,’ said Terry Fuller, senior vice president of business development for Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services.” Yeah -- extend the time, pay more in interest...

Update of August 15, 2005:  On August 11, Wells Fargo settled for $34 million a lawsuit accusing it of charging excessive credit card processing fees to businesses. Merchants accused Wells Fargo of extracting a variety of fees it never disclosed, and failing to explain the fees when asked. Sounds like Wells...

Update of August 1, 2005: From the mail bag, catching up:

Subj: WELLS FARGO 

Date: 7/12/2005 8:06:32 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] INNERCITYPRESS.ORG

FOR ABOUT 10 YEARS I HAVE HAD AN ACCOUNT WITH WELLS FARGO AND NEVER HAD PROBLEMS UNTIL JAN. 05, I HAD ARRANGEMENTS FOR MY CHECKING ACCOUNT TO BE DEBITED MONTHLY TO PAY MY CARNOTE. HOWEVER, I RAN INTO A PROBLEM AND WAS SHORT OF MONEY ON THE DUE DATE, AND CALLED THE BRANCH TO HAVE THEM WAIT 2 DAYS UNTIL THEY DRAFTED THE PAYMENT, I CALLED AND MADE THE ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE 30TH INSTEAD OF THE 28TH. WELL, MY ACCOUNT WAS  DEBITED ON THE 30TH AND ALSO ON THE 28TH, WHICH CAUSED BOTH TO BE NSF. I HAD NO IDEA UNTIL A WEEK OR SO LATER THAT MY CHECKING ACCOUNT WAS DEBITED TWICE IN 2 DAYS , WHICH OF COURSE, AS YOU CAN IMAGINE , MY SHOCK AND HORROR OF MANY NSF NOTICES IN MY MAILBOX. I CALLED WELLS FARGO TO FIX THE PROBLEM, BUT JUST GOT THE RUN AROUND. THEY TOLD ME TO CALL CUSTOMER DISPUTES , SO I DID , AND WAS TOLD TO FAX A BANK STATEMENT. I FAXED MY BANK STATEMENT, WHICH CONTAINED BOTH DEBITS AND A NUMBER OF NSF FEES, AND STILL AS OF THIS DATE , HAVE NOT HEARD A WORD. I HAVE TRIED TO CALL CUSTOMER DISPUTES AGAIN, BUT NO ONE WILL RESOLVE THIS ISSUE, AND NOW , MYSTERIOUSLY, CUSTOMER DISPUTES DOES NOT EXIST. TO DATE, I AM BEING HARRASSED ON A DAILY BASIS, WELLS FARGO CLAIMS I AM A MONTH BEHIND ON MY CAR PAYMENT. A COLLECTOR CALLED ME AND TOLD ME MY ACCOUNT IS BEING REVIEWED BY THE REPO COMMITTEE, AND HE ALSO TOLD ME HE DID NOT CARE WHAT WELLS FARGO DID TO MY ACCOUNT AND FOR ME TO STOP TALKING IN CIRCLES , THAT I STILL HAD TO PAY THE NSF OR LOSE MY CAR. EVEN ON THE DAY THEY GET A PAYMENT, THEY WILL CALL TO SEE WHEN I AM GOING TO SEND ANOTHER. THEY CALL ME AT WORK , AT HOME SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. I HAVE THOUGHT OF CONTACTING AN ATTORNEY AND SUING THE HELL OUT OF THEM. I HAVE NEVER MISSED A PAYMENT. BUT THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME OR RESOLVE THE SITUATION , OR EVEN REFUND MY NSF CHARGES THEY CAUSED.

Update of July 5, 2005: From the June 30 American Banker: “Some observers argued that any formal enforcement action would have prevented Wells from making acquisitions, such as the one it completed last week for First Community Capital Corp. of Houston. The $124 million deal was approved by the Federal Reserve Board, which noted that Wells was implementing improvements to its anti-laundering program. When the OCC memo became public, Wells' chief counsel, Jim Strother, acknowledged the anti-laundering problems and said his company was working to correct them. He would not discuss Wells' relationship with the OCC.”

            Of course, the OCC is suing to shield Wells Fargo from a fair lending inquiry from the New York State Attorney General...

More Wells Fargo in the shadows: the June 27 edition of the publication Furniture Today reported that “buying group Furniture First says it will offer a private-label credit card program through Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services. Wells Fargo will provide Furniture First members with account management and sales support, sales training, individualized client support, integrated technology and custom marketing solutions. Furniture First said the program will include a dedicated line of credit for approved customers, promoting larger purchases,” etc..

Update of June 27, 2005: The Federal Reserve’s June 23, 2005, Wells Fargo order recites that ICP “alleged that Wells Fargo engaged in discriminatory lending based on a review of the prices of loans extended to African-American and Hispanic borrowers as compared to white borrowers in 2004. The commenter based this allegation on 2004 HMDA data derived from loan application registers that it obtained from Wells Fargo. These data are preliminary and 2004 data for lenders in the aggregate are not yet available.” But since ICP’s assertions concerned Wells Fargo’s treatment of African Americans and whites (as well as comparing Wells to other lenders, whose data the Fed also has), here the Fed is hiding its head in the sand. Similarly on money laundering: while an OCC employee whistle-blew about the OCC letting Wells off the hook on Bank Secrecy Act laxity, the Fed’s order says “banking organizations operating in the United States are required to implement and operate effective anti-money laundering programs. In this case, the Board has considered the existing compliance risk-management systems and internal audit programs at Wells Fargo and the assessment of these systems and programs by the relevant federal and state supervisory agencies. The Board has also considered information provided by Wells Fargo on enhancements it has made and is currently making to its systems.”  Yeah, right...

            The Fed also recites that ICP “expressed concern about Wells Fargo’s and WF Bank’s information-security systems and cited a press report describing three instances of theft of computers containing information relating to customers of Wells Fargo’s subsidiaries. Wells Fargo represented that it is not aware of actual identity theft or fraudulent activity as a result of these incidents and that it provided potentially affected customers with notice of the thefts and credit bureau monitoring and identity theft insurance services. In reviewing Wells Fargo’s application, the Board has considered the enhancements Wells Fargo is making to its information security systems and has consulted with the OCC, the primary federal supervisor of WF Bank.” This in an environment of accelerating violations of consumers’ privacy...

            In footnote 13, the Fed says that ICP “criticized Wells Fargo’s relationships with unaffiliated payday and car title lenders and other nontraditional providers of financial services. Wells Fargo represented that it has acted as a lender or provider of credit facilities and in other ordinary business relationships to unaffiliated consumer finance businesses, which may include payday and title lenders. Wells Fargo stated that it does not participate in the credit review process of such lenders and customarily requires the entities to represent, warrant, and covenant to Wells Fargo in credit agreements that such entities have and will comply with all applicable laws in the conduct of their business.”  What’s being referred to here includes Wells Fargo funding a payday lender that is explicitly (and exclusively) directed at active duty military personnel...  Meanwhile last week, the Air Force newswire reported that the “Defense Department has launched a new effort to educate servicemembers about the dangers of borrowing from ‘loan-shark’ lending companies and to teach them how to avoid ending up in a spiral of compounding debt, a DOD official said here June 17. The most prevalent type of loan-shark lending affecting servicemembers is what is known as ‘payday loans,’ said John Molino, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy.”  But on the issue of Wells Fargo’s lending to payday lenders which target military personnel, the Fed has done nothing...

            The Fed also says that “although the HMDA data may reflect certain disparities in the rates of loan applications, originations, and denials among members of different racial groups in certain local areas, the HMDA data do not demonstrate that the WF Prime Lenders are excluding any racial group on a prohibited basis. The Board, nevertheless, is concerned when the record of an institution indicates disparities in lending and believes that all banks are obligated to ensure that their lending practices are based on criteria that ensure not only safe and sound lending, but also equal access to credit by creditworthy applicants regardless of race or income level.”  So the Board is concerned. Where’s the action?
            In note 34, the Fed says that ICP “criticized the customer service and complaint procedures of a Wells Fargo subsidiary engaged in subprime lending in Puerto Rico and urged the Board, without specific allegations, to closely scrutinize the subprime lending operations of Wells Fargo in general. Wells Fargo originates subprime mortgage loans through WF Financial and Island Finance, and numerous joint ventures originate subprime loans that are underwritten and processed through WF Mortgage’s unit, Wells Fargo Mortgage Resource. WF Financial and Island Finance are nonbanking subsidiaries of Wells Fargo. As the Board has previously noted, subprime lending is a permissible activity that provides needed credit to consumers who have difficulty meeting conventional underwriting criteria. The Board, however, continues to expect all bank holding companies and their affiliates to conduct their subprime lending operations without any abusive lending practices. See, e.g. Royal Bank of Canada, 88 Federal Reserve Bulletin 385, 388 n. 18 (2002).”

            When the Fed finally (has to) consider the 2004 data, it will find at Wells Fargo nothing but abusive lending practices...

Update of June 20, 2005:  On June 16, both the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Clearing House, a trade association of large banks, sued the New York Attorney General, seeking an injunction against investigation of disparities in the subprime lending of Wells Fargo and others...

Update of June 6, 2005: The Wall Street Journal of June 1 reported on Wells Fargo lowering fees -- but only for some customers, in seeming contradiction of the CRA, both letter and spirit: “In order to qualify for the lower costs, customers must have at least $25,000 in combined balances across deposit accounts they have at the bank, such as checking, savings accounts, certificates of deposits and individual retirement accounts, as well as any brokerage accounts. Credit-card balances, auto loans and as much as 10% of any mortgage balances with the bank are also included.”  Hmm...

Update of May 31, 2005:  Predatory lending is not limited to mortgages, and is also being exported, including by Wells Fargo. For example last week Furniture First, “a national buying group serving the retail home furnishings industry,” signed a contract to offer a private label credit card program through Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services. The press release specified: “Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, specializes in providing private label and dual-line credit card programs to retailers in North America. Its parent is Wells Fargo Financial. Wells Fargo Financial, a unit of Wells Fargo & Company, is a $38 billion company providing consumer installment and home equity lending, automobile financing, consumer and private label credit cards and commercial services to consumers and businesses. The company has approximately 19,000 team members and operates in 48 U.S. states, the 10 provinces of Canada, the Caribbean, Latin American and the Pacific Rim.” 

Update of May 23, 2005: ICP on May 20 submitted to the Florida Attorney General’s office an analysis of and demand for action on the glaring disparities in Wells Fargo’s 2004 mortgage lending in Florida:

Whites: 71,777 applications, leading to 10,071 denials (14.03% denied) and 50,226 originations; 2636 [or 5.25%] exceeded rate spread.
African Americans: 6694
applications, leading to 1922 denials (28.71% denied, 2.05 times higher than whites) and 3589 originations; 855 [or 23.82 percent] exceeded rate spread [4.54 times higher / more likely to be over rate spread than whites].

Latinos: 18,729 applications, leading to 2636 denials (20.71% denied, 1.48 times higher than whites) and 7754 originations; 378 [or 4.87 percent] exceeded rate spread [0.93 times “higher” / more likely to be over rate spread than whites].

            The Florida AG’s office has confirmed receipt...  For or with more information, contact us.

Update of May 16, 2005: This week we step back, temporarily, from drilling ever-deeper into the 2004 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data. Because we’ve been asked about the Wells Fargo - America’s Servicing Company, we note that Fitch’s September 21, 2004, ratings press release states that “Wells Fargo's third-party servicing division, America's Servicing Company (ASC), services more than 184,000 loans totaling over $20 billion.”

Update of May 9, 2005: ICP Fair Finance Watch continues drilling deeper into the 2004 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data.  Following its petitioning last week of state attorneys general, ICP was asked to produce a study of disparities by gender as well as race. The results, being forwarded to those who requested them, are not pretty. Here’s Wells Fargo:

White men: 554,755 originations of which 36,012 (or 6.49%) were at rate spread

White women: 196,396 originations of which 21,514 (or 10.95%) exceeded the rate spread (1.69 times higher / more likely to be rate spread than white men)

African American men: 29,858 originations of which 6357 (or 21.29%) exceeded the rate spread (3.28 times higher / more likely to be rate spread than white men)

African American women: 25,278 originations of which 7067 (or 27.96%) exceeded the rate spread (4.31 times higher / more likely to be rate spread than white men)

Hispanic men: 55.126 originations of which 5763 (or 10.45%) exceeded the rate spread (1.61 times higher / more likely to be rate spread than white men)

Hispanic women: 19,276 originations of which 2843 (or 14.75%) exceeded the rate spread (2.27 times higher / more likely to be rate spread than white men)

            ICP has provided this and other analysis to the regulators and state attorneys general, demanding investigation and action.

 And here comes trouble: a building permit in Annapolis, Maryland for Wells Fargo Financial, at 167 Jennifer Road...

Update of May 2, 2005: At last week’s shareholders’ meeting, faced with criticism of his involvement on the boards of three other companies (Cargill Inc., Target Corp., and Cisco Systems Inc.), Dick Kovacevich  insisted that he gains insights into agriculture, retail, and technology from those companies, and that the insights benefit Wells.  (Why then he doesn’t serve on the board of directors of a payday lender is unclear, since Wells proudly and defiantly wants to continue lending to them).   When the shareholder suggested that the CEO was spreading himself too thin, Kovacevich quipped, "You sound like my wife." We could joke, but this is a family newspaper -- most of the time, at least.  Wells Fargo’s disparate lending has now been raised to ICP/FFW to the attorneys general not only in New York but in dozens of other states.  We’ll see.

Update of April 25, 2005: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has reviewed, now for the New York City Metropolitan Statistical Area, the 2004 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data of Wells Fargo, including the new information concerning which loans are subject to a rate spread (3% higher than comparable Treasuries on a first lien, and 5% on a subordinated lien), and has found the following:

Whites: 11,028 originations of which 218 (or 1.98%) were at rate spread

African Americans: 1756 originations of which 224 (or 12.76%) were at rate spread (6.44 times higher / more likely to be rate spread than whites)

Latinos: 1664 originations of which 74 (or 4.45%) at rate spread (2.25 times higher / more likely to be rate spread than whites).

The ICP Fair Finance Watch is on the case, for now analyzing Wells Fargo’s 2004 mortgage data in other markets. 

Update of April 11, 2005: After first providing its 2004 Loan Application Register data in PDF format -- to prevent analysis, it seems clear -- Wells Fargo last week after complaints decided to provide it analyzable form.  The results are not pretty: At Wells Fargo for home purchase loans, African Americans borrowers are 3.9 times more like to receive a rate spread loan that white borrowers. This is only slightly less disparate that Citigroup, at which African Americans borrowers are 4.34 times more like to receive a higher-cost rate spread home purchase loan that white borrowers. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo denies the applications of African Americans for home purchase loans 2.3 times more frequently than those of whites, nearly as disparate as Citigroup’s 2.6 to one denial rate ratio between African Americans and whites. 

            At Wells Fargo for all types of mortgage loans, African Americans are 3.19 times more like to receive a rate spread loan than white borrowers. As we’ve noted, Wells Fargo is also a major funder of payday lenders, including targeters of military personnel such as Armed Forces Loans, Inc.. ICP has raised this directly to Wells Fargo, and to the Federal Reserve on Wells’ proposal to acquire First Community Capital Corp., which was announced back on September 2, was challenged by ICP on November 1, and which still remains pending, more than five months later. ICP has now put in a supplemental comment. Developing...

Update of April 4, 2005: This week it’s logistic. On February 28, ICP Fair Finance Watch made a formal request for Wells Fargo’s 2004 mortgage lending data; the data by regulation must be provided “by March 31 for a request received on or before March 1.” ICP’s request, directed to the signer of Wells Fargo’s previous responses to ICP’s regulatory comments, also inquired as a fair lending matter about Wells Fargo’s “safeguards, if any, for purchasing from, securitizing or serving as trustee for and otherwise assisting (including through warehouse lending) other subprime lenders, including payday lenders and car title lenders.”

            Wells Fargo waited the full month, then on March 31 provided its data -- in PDF. In this format it cannot be cumulated and analyzed and Wells Fargo knows this. ICP wrote to Wells Fargo

“immediately -- including in the context of Wells Fargo’s pending application to acquire First Community, on which ICP is a timely commenter and wishes to supplementally comment on the 2004 data -- to bring this to your attention” and re-requesting that the data be “provided in a single .DAT file, allowing analysis of the entire conglomerate’s patterns at one time.”

 ICP has also complained to the Federal Reserve. Click here to view the first of ICP’s studies; Wells will be in a future study, watch this space.

Update of March 28, 2005:  Among the range of Wells Fargo’s predatory practices is the stealth almost disavowed “America’s Servicing Company, on which we’ve previously reported. Among the week’s mail were these two, further on Wells’ ASC:

Subj: ASC IS NORWEST  

Date: 3/24/2005 8:28:54 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [ ]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I got a mortgage from Argent loan and sold to Ameriquest then to ASC which ended up as in CA.  ASC do not have any license as dept. of corp and dept of real

state. Also my search about " http://www.ascservicing.com " I found out ASC are same as Norwest also sub for wells fargo and as 3/4/2005, ASC has some legal cases under   National City Home Loan, HSBC Bank, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, and more. ASC as "servicer" for all but do not have license in ca. or others too. I called more than 10 times and no one provide me any info all is secret only one person told me call BBB.  What about government agency?

  Yep - Federal Reserve, OCC, the states (send a cc to Inner City Press if you like).

Subj: America's Servicing Company 

Date: 3/25/2005 4:09:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [ ]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.com

In 2004 I built a home. I had a construction loan through a local bank. Permanent loan was then obtained through RBC Centura bank.  This loan was sold to ACS.

Problems arose after ACS purchased loan. I was never notified that ACS had purchased loans. I continued to send my mortgage payment to RBC... RBC forwarded the installments to ACS for the first 60 days after they had sold loan to ACS. The installments RBC received from me after the 60 day time frame were returned to me with a letter stating they had sold loan to ACS in December of 2004 and had been forwarding my payments. The letter also advised the new mortgage company should contact me with account information etc.... I never received any notification that ACS had purchased the loan. I learned that I was in default and that I was placed in collections. I have Made repeated attempts to contact ACS to have this situation resolved to no avail....

Not only does this company not comply with fair lending and credit practices, they place accounts in collection without due course and process and without notification that they are the lender/mortgage company....

This has placed a burden on me as to impact to my credit standing and ability to obtain a mortgage with a reputable company.  I am subjected to increased cost of payments, increased interest rates and will be forced to pay additional fees to obtain refinancing...

 That’s Wells Fargo... .

Update of February 28, 2005: We'll focus this week on three sides of Wells Fargo: stealth servicing, disparate treatment, and the push into subprime. Last week (below), we reported on complaints about America's Servicing Company, including a request to know who owns it.  ICP went online and read that “America's Servicing Company, better known as ASC, a division of a well-known and respected mortgage company, is the subservicing/contract servicing operation. Loans may be serviced under the name of the client or ASC.”  Why say, “a well-known and respected mortgage company” without naming it?  Further inquiry found that this apparently ashamed owner of ASC is none other than Wells Fargo.

   Our noting this has given rise to more inquiries. For example:

Subj: ASC bka Wells Fargo 

Date: 2/24/2005 1:06:56 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [ ]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I just recently stumbled across your web page while i was doing some research about America's Servicing Company. 

I am really troubled about some practices and recently found out that they are the same as Wells Fargo.  ASC is currently my mortgage lender but i was offered a small loan in the month of December from Wells Fargo which I accepted....and they never indicated that they are the same as ASC.  I have been bombarded since then with phone calls from various offices of Wells Fargo (with all of my credit and personal info, I might add) offering to re-finance me with a 15 year lower interest rate (all financing and fees included i’m sure).  They have mailed me information and are constantly calling.  They asked me who I was currently with and I told them ASC.  They never indicated that they were the same.  When I filed my taxes, the tax preparer found that ASC and Wells Fargo had the same ID or tax number (meaning they are the same company?).  I just spoke with the representative in the office of Wells Fargo and he said that he doesn't know who ASC is and they have no affiliation and not the same.  He said that they are a publicly traded (what does that mean) company and have no affiliation with Wells Fargo.....needless to say, at this point i don't believe him. 

When I went to the web site i typed in subsidiaries of ASC and guess what came up.....yep, Wells Fargo.

  This is unfair and deceptive practices.

 We agree... Another Wells Fargo complaint received last week:

Date: 2/24/2005 5:39:57 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [ ]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

 I am an Anglo massage therapist in Napa, CA...an area with a large Hispanic population.  Our chiropractic office has two Anglo employees and three Hispanic employees.  Yesterday, Dr. Brackett sent out Lupe, the Hispanic receptionist to cash a check at Wells Fargo for petty cash.  Because she didn't have a bank account there, they charged Lupe $5 to cash the check and required two IDs, and a thumb print.  When I have gone there to cash personal checks for my mother along with a business check for my pay, they have required $5 from me... but no extra ID and no thumb print. My mother's personal check for a much greater amount is never any problem.

So, this was my theory...Wells Fargo charges $5 to cash business checks here in Napa because they can get away with it.  Of course I wasn't going pay $5 to cash my check so I just took it to my mother and she cashed it for me.   But a migrant worker doesn't have the resources I do.  So, the next day, Tara Booth, the Anglo office manager went in to cash another check to test my theory that Lupe Valasquez was discriminated against...and they not only didn't charge her the $5 but they didn't require any extra ID! I know it is tiny compared to lending practices discrimination...but it really makes us mad!

   Us too (or, grammatical but stilted, “we as well”). And yet another:

Subj: Wells Fargo nightmare 

Date: 2/24/2005 5:51:40 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [ ]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

Below is my letter to Wells Fargo, I have had no resolution.  I ended up signing at a 9.9% interest rate (I was leaving 5.5% on my construction loan) for no reason.  My credit score is 636 when I view it—they claim it is 580 but won’t show it to me.  I had no choice but to close as they kept me waiting until I was in a bind.  They then made me sign two papers, both of which I was told if I did not sign, I could not get the loan...   Please publish my story as it is a nightmare!

MY LETTER – No response yet

Wells Fargo Financial

Des Moines, IA 50309

To:  Thomas Shippee, Alan Blenner, David Kvamme, Michael McCoy & Dennis Young

I am writing this letter out of total frustration so that you can see what is going on with your company at the local level.

I am a real estate agent in Mississippi.  I have recently built a home and wanted to get permanent financing and pull my down payment back out.   (I put down $33,000 on the home).  I have several connections in Mortgage brokerage but I had recently heard that Wells Fargo was doing home mortgages in the prime market so I called the Jackson, Mississippi office, located on county line road.  I was asked to come in.  My husband and I went into the office and gave our information and had our credit checked.  We were told that we could get a home mortgage for 6.5 %.   This was one percent lower than the rate I currently had and I was told that because of my credit, I could never get the 5.5% again.   They said that they only use Trans Union and my score with them was 580.  My score has never been 580 with anyone.  I told them that I checked with all three agencies and my lowest score was 625.  They said that they figured it differently than I did.  Is a FICO score not the way to figure it? I didn’t understand this but I told them that I would take the higher rate if I could pull out at least $20,000 ( My loan with the bank was for $206,000.)  I was then told that if my home appraised for $250,000 or above, I could pull this money out and refinance the house at 6.5% on a three year ARM.  I told them okay and waited.  Two weeks later, after accumulating all of the paperwork, the appraisal came back at $265,000.  I was then told that it did not appraise high enough for me to pull the cash out.  I was told that they could refinance it but not pull the money out.   Why, I asked would I refinance at one percent higher rate and not pull money out?  I then inquired about a home equity loan or any type program where I could keep my original mortgage and just borrow against the equity.  I was told “they didn’t do that anymore” and I would have to refinance the entire home.  They offered me a rate of 7.25%.  Ben (the Manager) told me that I should take the 7.25% and pull out 95% of the equity, pay down my debt which was the only reason for my low score. Then, he stated,  my credit score would go up and he would refigure the loan based on the new credit score.  This entire time, I had pulled my credit online and showed 628.  Ben keeps insisting that their records showed my score at 580.  I could not understand why he showed such a lower score.  I asked him to run the credit again.  This is a total of two times I authorized for my credit to be checked.   After checking my credit, he said that it still showed 580 and that if I took the 7.25 % I could get up to 95% of the equity, pay down my debt and come in within 45 days and receive the new interest rate of 6.5.  I asked for this in writing and was told that “I had his word and it was their policy not to put things in writing.”  With time being lost (wasted) I told him to go ahead with the loan at 7.25% and then asked what the payment would be.  His payment was very much higher than what I figured it should be which he explained by the APR. Even though the rate was 7.25, it seems the payment was figured on 7.9.   Okay, I said, even though I have never heard of this I gave him the go ahead to submit the loan.  I was told we should get approval that day.  That was on a Friday.  The following Friday, after many phone calls and many reassurances that everything was fine, I was called and told to come in and close, the loan was ready.

My husband and I made the one hour trip down to the loan office and sat down with a girl we have never met to close the loan.  It turns out, the paperwork was done at 7.9% with $19,000 cash back and no other bills paid.  I told her that this was not the loan we had agreed to and she stated that they would not do the loan we agreed to.  I asked for Ben and was told he was headed out of town for the weekend.  I then asked for a number of someone higher that I could call.   I walked outside to make the call but since it was after 5:00, no one answered.  I then went in and told the girl that because they kept me waiting for over a month, I was now in a bind to get the loan and would sign the papers because I had to have the money but I was going to go to an attorney afterwards.  I was told that I couldn’t get the money for three days anyway.  I had never heard this before and in over 100 loan closings that I had been to, I have never seen a customer wait three days until getting the money.   I told her that I would sign and she then informed me that the loan had been cancelled.  I said “how can you cancel the loan in 5 minutes.”  She said she had.  I asked for a copy of the paperwork and was told she had just shredded it.  I then demanded that they get in touch with Ben.  I waited around a half hour for Ben to return my call.  He stated that they would not go over 85% at the interest rate of 7.9% and he was sorry he didn’t inform me of that earlier.  He stated that I could go 90% with an interest rate of 8.9% (which is incredibility high to me when there is nothing on my credit that I see that should keep me from getting a decent loan).  He said that they could do the 8.9% and then pay down the debt and I could come in and redo the loan within 45 days at no cost and my rate would be 7.9%.  Everything is now over a point higher than I agreed to. It seems, every week that I wait, the percentage goes up another point.  Now, I am in a bind, I have been lied to and played with for over a month.  I have no choice but to take what he is offering but I want you to know that not only will I never refer anyone to you for a mortgage, I plan to take an ad out in the Clarion Ledger about this and also to post a letter on the Realtor Multiple listing web site in Jackson.  I also plan to go to the attorney General regarding all the lies I was told.  AND to top it all off, I check my credit again last night to try and justify the 580 you keep claiming to show.  I got 627; it went down a point because you apparently have checked my credit 4 times in the last month, two of which were without my consent.  To say that this has been disappointing is an understatement, it has been a nightmare.   I will not let this die.  To top it all off, he still will not give me something in writing that states the rate will go down later and he has made me wait so long that it’s to late to start over with another company.  Is this the way you do business?

     Yes, that is how Wells does business..

Update of February 21, 2005:  A suspicious lack of candor:  last week ICP received complaints about America's Servicing Company, including a request to know who owns it.  ICP went online and read that “America's Servicing Company, better known as ASC, a division of a well-known and respected mortgage company, is the subservicing/contract servicing operation. Loans may be serviced under the name of the client or ASC.”  Why say, “a well-known and respected mortgage company” without naming it?  Further inquiry finds that this apparently ashamed owner of ASC is none other than Wells Fargo.  Now we understand...

Update of February 14, 2005: A Phoenix woman sued Wells Fargo & Co. in federal court on Feb. 9, alleging her former employer failed to pay overtime. The lawsuit seeks class-action status to represent thousands of current and former so-called ``business systems'' employees who produce automated versions of paper forms and perform other automation jobs. The suit was brought by Jasmin Gerlach, who worked in the bank's Phoenix office from 1995 to 2004. She claims she is entitled to being paid for past overtime work because she and others were wrongly classified as being exempt from overtime pay...

Update of January 31, 2005:  Tales of Wells Fargo Financial’s non-mortgage predation, from PhillyNews last week: on Nov. 28, 2003, Ms. Ying Zhang bought two bedroom sets and a table for $4,800 at Raymour & Flanigan in Wilmington, Delaware. The lender was Wells Fargo Financial. Zhang “made monthly payments, as required, and a final payment on Nov. 24. But when Zhang looked back at the paperwork, something didn't add up: Her final payment had included nearly $900 in accumulated interest.... Zhang first called Wells Fargo Financial, which provided the financing for Zhang and other customers at the privately held furniture retailer. A Wells Fargo rep referred Zhang to the contract she signed, which indeed did say, "The no interest option ends on 11/07/2004." When Zhang protested that the offer was for a year, not 11 months. [After PhillyNews’ inquiries,] Raymour & Flanigan spokesman Heather Ward called back to say that Wells Fargo would be sending Zhang a full refund of the interest she paid... Ward referred questions about financing to Wells Fargo. Bank spokesman Steve Carlson said the interest-free due date is disclosed on sales slips and monthly statements. Why does a ‘one year’ offer ever come due less than a year later? Carlson couldn't say, but told me: ‘If we have erred, we do what is right for the customer.’”  Yeah -- if they have a major metropolitan daily newspaper on their side. If not?   Well, that’s where Wells Fargo Financial’s profits come from...

Update of January 24, 2005: Wells on the prowl -- in an interview earlier this month, CEO Dick Kovacevich said his competitors “are running out of gas, and either they merge with someone to get restarted or they sell to someone... We're seeing more opportunities to do deals at closer to financially attractive levels than before."

Update of January 18, 2005: Wells Fargo announced on January 10 its stake in Charlotte NC-based Viewpointe LLC, which archives more than 25 billion electronic check images a year.  Given Wells Fargo's record in leaking (or having stolen) customers' private information, it’s questionable how good a fit this is...

Update of January 10, 2005:  Rumors of a merger were swirling over the weekend: Wells Fargo eying Barclays (which is more publicly making moves on South Africa’s Absa Group Ltd).  Well at least now the predatory lending is uniformly branded: on January 4 “Wells Fargo announced that its “Trans Canada Credit Corp. subsidiary has changed its name to Wells Fargo Financial Corporation Canada. Wells Fargo Financial, the consumer finance subsidiary of the financial services giant, acquired Trans Canada in November 1992 and operated it under that name until Jan. 1.” From Wells Fargo’s own press release: “One element of the name change project is creation of a new French logo and corporation name, Societe financiere Wells Fargo Canada, to be used in Quebec. It represents the first time a Wells Fargo entity has conducted business under a French name.”  At least one that can be printed in a family newspaper...

Update of December 20, 2004: Little shifts in Wells Fargo’s subprime auto lending business: last week, Wells Fargo Financial announced it will sell its Florida-based Consumer Auto Receivables auto loan unit to fellow-subprimer CompuCredit (which is also now a payday lender, with the f/k/a First American Cash Advance, and side deals with Synovus). To be sure, Wells is still in subprime auto: “Officials said Wells Fargo Financial will remain one of the premier non-prime automobile lenders in North America through its Philadelphia-based Wells Fargo Financial Acceptance business unit. That unit, which has about 580,000 customers, has more than $8 billion in receivables.”

Update of December 6, 2004: ICP has timely challenged Wells Fargo’s Texas application. Last week, ICP received a partial copy of Wells Fargo’s November 29, 2004, submission (the “Letter”).  The Letter at page 34 states that “Confidential Exhibit 9 (Question 6) contains a list of businesses with which Wells Fargo maintains a business relationship whose business operations may constitute subprime lending. This exhibit includes the [NAICS] code for these businesses, and the Wells Fargo lending group providing lending or services to each business.”   This is an outrageous withholding, given that ICP and now Bloomberg News (see below) have identified many of the fringe financiers which Wells Fargo funds or otherwise enables. Additionally, the above quoted does NOT fully respond to FRB Question 6, which asks not only about subprime lenders, but also “providers of non-traditional financial services (such as check cashers, pawn shops, or rent-to-own businesses).”  An additional response must be demanded and released, ICP has commented to the Fed...

Update of November 29, 2004: Hitting a new low, in last week’s Bloomberg News article about the funding of payday loans and lenders, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Susan Stanley-Jones spun: “Free and equal access to credit for any legitimate business that complies with all laws is a cornerstone of the free enterprise system.” This was in response to the showing, from ICP to Bloomberg and then on the wire, that Wells ” has extended credit to Payday Inc. in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Payday Plus Inc. in North Dakota; and Payday Express Inc. in Omaha, Nebraska, among others, according to UCC filings.” Bloomberg -- unlike, we’re hoping, another major publication -- missed the Wells - Armed Forces Loans, Inc. connection.  The big picture: Wells Fargo enables predatory lending, and is itself a predator...

Update of November 22, 2004:  From the mail bag:

Subj: Wells Fargo complaint to add to website list 

Date: 11/20/2004 9:17:28 AM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name withheld at request]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

  I, too, have been mislead by individuals at Wells Fargo.  I had an increase in property taxes and had to seek other means of being able to afford my mortgage payment.  I received a call from Wells Fargo within the same week of receiving an annual escrow statement from my previous banking institution.  The coincidence was uncanny.  I explained to her the reason I had to refinance was because the property taxes had been increased without my knowledge and I wanted to be able to have affordable payments.  I was told that they would definitely be able to get us a reasonable rate with a lower monthly payment.  We proceeded with the loan.  The fact that sealed the deal was that we were informed that we could borrow the amount owed to our previous lender and in addition to this amount, we were told we could borrow enough money to cover fall of this year's property taxes and spring of next year as well.  During the processing of the closing, communication began to break down, we were given different facts about the entire process left and right.  The agent finally said that the loan had to be changed from a 30 yr. loan to a 15 yr. loan to get the amount of money that we wanted in order for the amount to be approved.  The rate appeared to be reasonable based on the monthly payment, so we consented still under the impression that the property taxes owed had been figured into the closing amount.  We recently received a letter from our previous lender stating that we had an overpayment.  Through investigation we discovered that property taxes had not been paid and figured into our refinanced loan amount.  When we called Wells Fargo to investigate this matter someone took our information and said they would get back to us.  At this point, they knew we were very frustrated and misinformed by someone.  We did not receive any phone call and in fact we had to track the agent down.   She ignored our calls.  When we spoke to her, she gave us the impression that this is the first she had heard about the situation and had to be informed all over again.  Obviously, she did not care about our concerns or she would have called us and made it a priority to get back with us.  She then informed us that based on our appraisal the amount which we had requested was denied because we didn't have enough equity.  This is totally false because our home appraised for $5,000 more than the loan amount we were asking for.  And at the time of closing, we were encouraged to borrow more money from them to consolidate other bills!    Credit is not an issue here---because both my fiancé and I have excellent credit and we wish to keep it that way.  Had we been informed that our Fall 04/Spring 05 taxes could not be factored into our loan amount we would have stayed with the previous lender.   As it is now, we are having to come up with over $200 more a month to cover bills compared to what our financial situation would have been had we just stayed with the previous lender.  The agent knew our concerns, knew our goals and she was only wanting to seal the deal.   I am appalled by the incompetence of this agent and the blatant disregard that she had for our concerns and our financial well being.   I feel that she purposefully withheld information from us in order to seal the deal.  This was unethical.  Had when been informed of the real facts we could have concluded that going with Wells Fargo was not in our best interest and we would not have proceeded with the loan.  Now we are locked in with Wells Fargo for three years because if we withdraw from them and refinance with someone else within that timeframe, they can charge us $7,000.  Please, I beg you to actively pursue your quest in holding Wells Fargo accountable for their actions.  They are simply wolves in sheep's clothing!!!!!   Sincerely,   A  Betrayed Customer  

Update of November 15, 2004:  Wells Fargo’s general counsel James Strother, with an opportunity to address Wells Fargo’s documented relationship with payday lenders including Armed Forces Loans, Inc., which directs its high-cost loans at active duty military personnel, has in a November 11 letter provided only boiler plate. “Wells Fargo and its affiliates have, on a transaction-by-transaction basis, acted as a lender or provider of credit facilities to unaffiliated entities engaged in consumer finance businesses which may including acting as a payday lender... Loan proceeds may or may not involve funding the actual lending operations of such entities...”.  Targeting high-cost payday loans at soldiers? ICP has replied....

Update of November 8, 2004:  While waiting for Wells Fargo’s response, in came Citigroup’s November 4 response to Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch’s submission to the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of Uniform Commercial Code filings by Citigroup and its proposed acquisition, First American Bank:

“ICP attaches certain records of [UCC] filings related to several Citigroup and FAB clients... As a practice, Citigroup and its bank subsidiaries do no engage in the business of funding check cashing or payday lending businesses. Citigroup’s account opening procedures and credit policies generally prohibit the opening of new accounts for businesses identified as check cashing operations. Citigroup does have a single active relationship with an armored car company that also includes a checking account to an affiliate in the check cashing business. This account predates the Citigroup procedures for check cashers, and Citigroup has been in the process of winding down the relationship pursuant to a gradual exit strategy.

“In addition, on occasion check cashing businesses have become customers in connection with Citigroup’s acquisition of other financial institutions. In such cases, Citigroup undertakes a post-acquisition review of these relationships and takes action to close or limit them, when appropriate. Citigroup makes changes to conform with its business practices as expeditiously as commercially reasonable, yet in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of an existing client...”

            While contesting some of the above, ICP has now submitted a second timely comment on Wells Fargo. ICP in its first comment put into the record the commitment by another of Wells Fargo’s peers, SunTrust, to no longer fund payday lending or car title lending companies.  Now, as to Wells Fargo and check cashing companies, ICP has submitted some examples:

Arizona: ANYKIND CHECK CASHING CENTERS, INC.; 1 STOP CHECK CASHING $ PAYDAY & TITLE LOANS, LLC.

Florida: THE CHECK CASHING AND MONEY CENTER, INC.

Iowa: MIDWEST CHECK CASHING OF SIOUX CITY, L.C..

Minnesota: ACTION CHECK CASHING INC.

Nebraska: CASH CONNECTION CHECK CASHING, L.L.C..

New Jersey: DAK'S CHECK CASHING; NATIONAL CHECK CASHING INC..

New York: AVENUE CHECK CASHING CORP ; A V W CHECK CASHING CORP / BAY STREET CHECKING; FORTUNE CHECK CASHING; GRANITE CHECK CASHING SERVICE, INC.; HAR JOE CHECK CASHING CORP; HUNTS POINT CHECK CASHING;  JAMAICA LEFFERTS CHECK CASHING;  PENN STARRETT CHECK CASHING; PENINSULA CHECK CASHING; PRIMA CHECK CASHING; QUALITY CHECK CASHING; RIDGE CHECK CASHING CORP; RELIABLE CHECK CASHING CORP; RELIABLE CHECK CASHING CORP; RICHMOND HILL II CHECK CASHING; SAMARA'S CHECK CASHING CORP; SUBWAY CHECK CASHING; SUNRISE CHECK CASHING; TRIBORO CHECK CASHING; WILMAR CHECK CASHING CORPORATION; WINK CHECK CASHING CORP...

  We’ll see...For or with more information, contact us

November 1, 2004: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has just filed timely comments opposing Wells Fargo's proposed acquisitions:

November 1, 2004

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Attn:  Chairman Alan Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20551

Re:       Timely comment opposing and requesting public hearings on Wells Fargo’s proposal to acquire First Community Capital Corporation and its affiliates

Dear Chairman Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson, FRB: 

            On behalf of Inner City Press/Community on the Move and its members and affiliates, including the Fair Finance Watch (collectively, “ICP”), this is a timely comment opposing, requesting public hearings on the applications by Wells Fargo & Co. (along with its affiliates, “Wells”) to acquire First Community Capital Corporation, First Community Capital Corporation of Delaware, Inc., First Community Bank, N.A., First Community Bank San Antonio, N.A (along with their affiliates, “First Community” or “FC”).

            ICP is opposed to Wells Fargo’s proposed acquisitions of under the Community Reinvestment Act, based on systemic lending disparities, including the targeting of protected classes with higher cost credit through Wells Fargo Financial, and, particularly, Wells Fargo’s enabling of high-cost payday lenders, car title lenders, rent-to-own and pawn shops and other predatory fringe financiers. Perhaps the worst, and the one on which ICP demands immediate action by the FRB (including because ICP provided documentary evidence of this outrage to both senior FRB staff and the chairman in July 2004) is Wells Fargo's funding of a payday lender whose focus is active duty military service-members: Armed Forces Loans, Inc., of 3824 South Jones, Las Vegas, Nevada.  Beyond Armed Forces Loans, Inc., here’s another sample dirty dozen financed by Wells Fargo:

TITLE LOANS EXPRESS, INC. of 4295 SAN FELIPE, HOUSTON, TEXAS 77027, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK TEXAS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

HOUSTON AREA PAWN SYSTEMS, INC., financed by WELLS FARGO BANK TEXAS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

EZ PAWN HOLDINGS, INC., of 1901 CAPITAL PARKWAY, AUSTIN, TX 78746 (financed by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as recently as April 13, 2004, according to Uniform Commercial Code filings);

PAYDAY LOAN MANAGEMENT, INC. of 1901 CAPITAL PARKWAY, AUSTIN, TX 78746, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK TEXAS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
EXPRESS TITLE & PAYDAY LOANS, INC. of 1131 WARREN LANE, VERNON HILLS, ILLINOIS 60061, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.,  according to an Illinois Uniform Commercial Code filing
ADVANCE AMERICA CASH ADVANCE CENTERS, headquartered as 135 NORTH CHURCH STREET, SPARTANBURG, SC 29306, multiply financed by Wells Fargo, including in 2004;
PAYDAY INC of 5021 INDIAN SCHOOL RD NE, ALBUQUERQUE, NM 87110
PAYDAY PLUS of 425 HILL AVENUE, GRAFTON, ND 58237, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK NORTH DAKOTA, NATIONAL ASSOC
AUTO PAWN, INC. of 7534 HICKMAN RD, DES MOINES, IA 50322, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK IOWA, N.A., according to Iowa UCC records;
PAYDAY LOANS III, L.L.C. in Idado, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.
PAYDAY EXPRESS, of 4302 SOUTH 24TH STREET, OMAHA, NE 68107, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK NEBRASKA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
1 STOP CHECK CASHING $ PAYDAY & TITLE LOANS, LLC of 10555 E FIRESTONE BLVD, NORWALK, CA 90650, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, according to a May 6, 2004, Arizona UCC filing
MAC DIANE'S PAWN CENTER in Michigan;

and, again, ARMED FORCES LOANS INC. of 3824 S JONES STE G, LAS VEGAS, NV 89103, regarding which, see "Lending Scams Target Military," at http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalpay/a/loanscam.htm

Wells Fargo targets its higher-cost loans, through Wells Fargo Financial, at protected classes.  Using Texas as an example, in 2003 in the Houston MSA, Wells Fargo Bank NA (CA) denied African Americans' refinance loan applications 2.34 times more frequently than whites, and denied Latinos’ applications 2.20 times more frequently than whites. Significantly, Wells Fargo Bank made 2716 refinance loans to whites, and only 161 to African Americans --  16.9 loans to whites for each loan to an African American, for Wells Fargo’s prime-rate lender.  Meanwhile in this MSA, Wells’ subprime lender Wells Fargo Financial Texas, Inc. made only 1.33 loans to whites for each loan to an African American. In the Houston MSA, Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans 12.7 times more frequently at African Americans than whites (henceforth, the "targeting index").

In the Dallas MSA in 2003, Wells Fargo Bank NA (CA) made 1429 refinance loans to whites, and only 53 to African Americans -- 27 loans to whites for each loan to an African American, for Wells Fargo's prime-rate lender.  Meanwhile in this MSA, Wells' subprime lender Wells Fargo Financial Texas, Inc. made 108 higher-cost refinance loans to African Americans, and 252 to whites -- 2.3 loans to whites for each loan to an African American household. Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans in Dallas 11.7 times more frequently at African Americans than whites.

Wells Fargo’s targeting index, similarly calculated, is 6.81 in Austin, Texas; 3.42 in El Paso, and a whopping 17.2 in San Antonio.  Wells Fargo also funds and enables payday and car title lenders and pawnshops in Texas. Wells Fargo’s applications to expand, particularly but not only in Texas, should be denied.

Wells Fargo's targeting of protected classes with higher-cost subprime loans from Wells Fargo Financial is nationwide.  In the Los Angeles MSA in 2003, Wells Fargo Bank NA (CA) made 1116 refinance loans to whites, and only 121 to African Americans -- 9.2 loans to whites for each loan to an African American, for Wells Fargo's prime-rate lender.  Meanwhile in this MSA, Wells' subprime lender, Wells Fargo Financial California, made 95 higher-cost refinance loans to African Americans, and 161 to whites -- 1.7 loans to whites for each loan to an African American household. Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans in Los Angeles 5.41 times more frequently at African Americans than whites.  Finally, for now, in its headquarters MSA of San Francisco, Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans in Los Angeles five times more frequently at African Americans than whites. 

It is time for the FRB to inquire closely into disparities and discrepancies in Wells Fargo’s subprime lending including beyond the continental United States. As simply one example, Wells Fargo has stated

"Island Finance does not have a specialized customer service department or a toll-free telephone number for complaints. Customers who have complaints contact the store handling their account. If the store is unable to resolve the complaint the complaint if referred to the district manager. If the district manager is unable to resolve the complaint it is referred [to] the district manager's supervisor."[FN]

            That Puerto Rico-based Island Finance has even less consumer protection safeguards that Wells Fargo Financial's overall operations is significant -- and, ICP contends, is violative of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, given the demographics of Island Finance's headquarters and its lending operations.

Here are some sample consumer abuse by Wells Fargo in the U.S., based on messages directed to ICP:

Subj: Wells Fargo Problem 

Date: 10/5/2004 6:08:30 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I found your web site most interesting as I am currently in a struggle with the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Dept. Last year my insurance company dropped to a grade C and was informed I needed to change to a different carrier with a better standing.  In April of 2003 I did just that.  As of April 11, 2003 I changed to a higher grade insurance with the same agent all while never changing my policy number.

In May of 2003, the following month, I refinanced with Wells Fargo.  Being that my loan already belonged to Wells Fargo I assumed the process would be quick and payless.

One of the requirements when refinancing your home is to verify insurance and it was at that time that I handed over all my new insurance information to the loan officer at my local Wells Fargo Bank.  My insurance was verified, the information was processed and I closed on the house soon after.

In August of 2004, I received a letter from Wells Fargo stating that my mortgage payment was increasing by the ridiculous amount of $600.00.  Being that I live in a rapidly growing city I assumed it had to be taxes etc...   I had no choice but to pay my September mortgage statement $600.00 higher than the past 12 months.  My wife and I discussed selling that house and moving into an apartment.   How were we going to afford this?

I decided to let one of my colleagues review the statement and he immediately noticed that my insurance premium was listed at $3,500.00.  He asked how big my house was and why was I paying that extremely high premium of $3,500.  After a little digging, I found that my insurance premium should have been listed at $895.00 not $3,500.00.   We are talking about a 400% difference here.

I immediately called my insurance carrier and was amazed to find out that my insurance had been cancelled in April 11, 2004 due to non-payment. Non-payment!. I escrow my insurance payment and Wells Fargo had $1,000.00 plus in my escrow for my insurance payment.   What happened?  Why was it not paid?

After many, many calls to Wells Fargo I was able get a handle of the situation.  It turns out that the new insurance information was processed but my insurance carrier they was never informed of the changes to the loan number (due to refinance).  My insurance company sent a notice to Wells Fargo in Feb 2004 stating that my payment was coming due in April.   They sent one in April then they sent one in May notifying them of cancellation. Since my insurance carrier was not notified of the change in loan number Wells Fargo did not act on the payment request and did not pay.  According to Wells Fargo, I allowed my insurance to expire.  That came directly from their mouth, I let my insurance expire.  A letter notifying me of this was not even sent until 1 month after my policy had been cancelled.  For the record, I did not receive this letter or the other 2 that they say was mailed.  You would think that something this serious in nature would require a simple phone call or maybe a certified letter asking me to contact them immediately.  When asked why they did not call me they stated it was not their policy to do so.  So what do they do instead?  You guessed it, they put me into their own insurance carrier at a rate 400% higher than the one I had selected.  400% higher.

What's worse is that they have never once apologized to me or my wife. Instead, they are committed to telling me that it was my fault and I should have responded to my letters.  Meanwhile my October payment is coming due and I told them I would not pay that ridiculous amount again.  They said it would take 3 to 6 weeks to resolve this and recommended I make the payment. The hell I am, I said.  If you can't help me get me to someone who can. Soon after I was transferred over to a diff. department who would only differ the $2,500.00 negative balance over 2 years bringing my payment back to earth and putting a band aid on the situation.

I failed to mention that I obviously had to get a new insurance policy at a slightly higher rate than last year.  Wells Fargo paid the policy but then charged 1,000.00 back to my escrow account.  For those of you keeping score that puts me back to a negative 3,500.00  If not for my initial insurance escrow of 1,000.00 I could be at negative 4,500 by now.  Wells Fargo managed to get a 1/3 of the 3,500.00 back from the carrier but still have to consider if they should credit me the remaining balance or not.

I now have to wait 3 to 6 weeks before a supervisor makes a decision on the remaining balance currently negative on my escrow account.  When asked why it took so long the answer I got was, "they are reviewing lots of other similar cases".  I asked, does this happen a lot and she responded, "all the time". Amazing!

 

Subj: Our Wells Fargo story-names deleted 

Date: 10/19/2004 10:34:18 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name Withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I am a Real Estate and Mortgage Broker working with a property owner of a property in Aurora, CO 80011-- the Seller had to move back home to Australia because of cancer and its treatment.  She needed to be near her family.  The property owner's ex-husband was given Power of Attorney to sell the property for her.  Unfortunately he was involved in a serious automobile accident that incapacitated him for a number of months and the property went into foreclosure. 

When the ex-husband  recovered sufficiently he  contacted me to help him sell the property.  In June 2004  we found a Buyer-- had a contract and even an approved loan.   All of the paperwork was submitted multiple times to the Wells Fargo foreclosure department.  We made many calls to them for updates on status of the offer.  After two months we had heard nothing and the Buyer walked from the deal-- no longer willing to cope with the aggravation.

In mid- August the ex-husband and I found another Buyer-- and put together another deal-- including a fully approved loan-- the offer price is actually more than Wells Fargo's later VPO showed the property is worth.  This time we have actually talked a couple times with representatives of Wells Fargo's foreclosure department who assure us that our Offer is a great offer and should be approved any minute.  NOW-- 6-8 weeks after our initial submission-- and four Amend Extends later-- we are still waiting for an approval-- or even a disapproval.  Our Wells Fargo contact assures us it looks like a good deal-- and fits within the number parameters they look for-- and it just sat for FOUR DAYS on his supervisor's desk while he went on vacation--and had not even been touched when he returned.  (This is not the first time we have gone through a similar scenario-- only to have the file given to a new employee who starts the process all over!)

Our latest amend-extend runs out in two days.  The Buyer is reluctant to re-extend the contract-- cos he doesn't think Wells Fargo will ever get the file cleared and approved.  I am tending to agree with him. I think the Wells Fargo Foreclosure department is the most inept system and the most apathetic, incompetent bunch of people I have ever run into... Eventually WF will pay the price-- the Bank, the organization.  I think all the news revealing not only corruption, but also ineptness and inefficiency, within the corporate culture is pointing the finger to a truth that says that eventually the organization pays for all the crap it has been shoving down its customers-- and other's-- throats.  Attitudes that say the little guy doesn't count just can't prosper anyone in the long run.

 

Subj:     Out of Control   

Date: 10/8/03 4:14:37 AM Eastern Daylight Time   

From: [Name Withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org 

I am extremely impressed with your understanding and explanation of what is going on with the banks and the regulatory institutions in this country.  Hopefully your editorials reach enough people who care whom will stand up and fight against these fraudsters.  Unfortunately, the white collar crime is roaring ahead at the speed of the internet as banks like Wells Fargo Bank, NA (securities vehicle) parade around disguised as a real bank with insurance for your accounts. 

I am at the beginning of an arbitration suit with Wells Fargo Bank, NA here in Nevada.   The case stems back to February 1997 originally created by a loan officer @ 145 West Portal Branch for Wells Fargo Bank.  The bank officer added a third page to a completed two page application for a $100,000.00 business line of credit for overdraft and cash flow need for my construction company.  She added a third page to the application which the bank tells me created a MasterCard account that had an additional $100,000.00 line attached to it.  When I increased my line to $200,000.00 in December 1997, ten months later, the MasterCard was not closed out.  On March 9, 1998, a $97,000.00 debit posts to my credit line, deposits in to my business checking account, and debits the checking account the same day referencing "Bank Originated Entry".   The saga continues unabated and has grown horns over the last five years.  I believe that a majority of the problems may stem from my citizenship papers.  I was born in St. Johns, Newfoundland on Peppermill Air Force Base to American parents.  My father has a FS-240 (Report of Birth for Children Born Abroad to American Parents) form filled out by the Consul in Newfoundland.  The only problem is, the Birth of Child Certificate Number on the FS-240 doesn't reference my Birth Certificate but another Report of Birth which I can only assume is another child.  On June 1, 1966, I am issued Naturalization/Citizenship papers at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where my father is stationed at the time.  These papers certify that I am a Citizen of the United States but what about the child referred to in the FS-240.  Another interesting note is at the bottom of the FS-240 it states:

                        Service No. 736

                        Tariff 13a

This is clearly some type of trading reference which is created by the Consul Huston Dixon in April 1958.   45 years later coupled with the speed of the internet, this vehicle appears to have become a major trade vehicle between Canada and the US which passes through undetected through a Federal Reserve Account held in a Custodial Trust Account for a Minor   I have been researching fraud on my accounts with Wells Fargo with little of no cooperation from the Bank.  I also was unable to get my attorney's to file a motion against the bank.  I finally released my counsel and filed a ten million arbitration suit against the bank on my own.  Hopefully the truth will matter and I will be reimbursed for all of the fraudulent transactions on my accounts over the years.

Do you know whom American Securities Company of Nevada is?  They are trustees in the State of Nevada for Wells Fargo Bank, NA and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc.  The are right in the middle of all the non-judicial foreclosures as they help facilitate the exchange of Deeds of Trust registering them with MERS.  What a mess.  I am not sure if no one really cares or is it too complicated for the public to understand.  The white collar criminals have really cooked up a dozy with this pyramid scheme.  Arbitrating with themselves as Wells Fargo now owns and insurance company that pays the claims which are passed down through the stock price of the bank securities offerings all the while, paying themselves, AGAIN.

Anyway,  thank you for your time...

More needs to be (and will be) said -- including about Wells Fargo’s still-entirely-unreformed subprime lending beyond the continental United States -- but ICP will await copies of the FRB's correspondence with and about Wells Fargo and First Community, and the banks' responses. Specifically, based on prior FRS precedents, at a minimum the following question(s) should be asked, and publicly answered:

"For any business relationship (e.g. commercial lender, warehouse lender, purchaser, custodian, etc.) that Wells Fargo or First Community or any of their  affiliates have with any subprime lenders (including providers of non-traditional banking products, such as check cashers, title lenders, pawn shops, or rent-to-own businesses): (i) identify the relevant business parties and (ii) describe the nature of the business relationships... Additionally, to the extent not otherwise covered in your responses to the comments of the Inner City Press Community on the Move & Fair Finance Watch, describe any due diligence that Wells Fargo or First Community typically conducts concerning any such subprime lender's compliance with applicable fair lending and consumer protection laws prior to entering into these business relationships, including... (c ) any monitoring or other ongoing procedures Wells Fargo or First Community has adopted to access compliance with these laws. Provide a copy of such procedures that are used to determine whether third party originators are engaged in, or facilitating, abusive and/or predatory lending practices." [FN: Also incorporated herein by reference and to be made part of the record, for obvious reasons, is the July 12, 2004, submission of SunTrust Banks, Inc., on these issues.

The answers to these questions should be made public, as argued in the FOIA appeal and complaint filed by ICP in connection with Wachovia - SouthTrust (the FRB was served with the complaint on October 25, 2004).

  Communications regarding these proceedings, including Wells Fargo’s responses, any and all FRB communications with Wells Fargo, and the improperly withheld portions of the Applications, should be provided to the undersigned.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew R. Lee, Esq.
Executive Director
Inner City Public Interest Law Center
& Inner City Press/Community on the Move
Tel: 718-716-3540  Fax: 718-716-3161

   NOTE:  For or with more information, contact us. This will be updated; stay tuned...

Earlier reports:

    In late July 2003, ICP filed challenges to the applications by Wells Fargo to acquire Pacific Northwest Bank, and Grand Junction Bank in Colorado. The comments, filed with the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco and summarized below, focus not only on Wells' abuse-plagued subprime lending in the continental United States -- including as documented in complaints that consumers have directed to ICP -- but also overseas, in Panama, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and the U.S. territories of Guam and Saipan, as well as Puerto Rico (Free Associated State). See, "Group Objects to Wells Deals," by Todd Davenport, American Banker, July 29, 2003, Pg. 17, quoting ICP that "Wells Fargo is a predatory lender, and is exporting these practices beyond the United States." See also, "Group Files to Block Wells Fargo Acquisition," Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 29, 2002; "Wells Fargo Accused of Predatory Lending," Denver Post, July 29, 2003; "Wells Fargo Accused of Unfair Lending," Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 2003.   This will be updated at least weekly. Until then, for or with more information, contact us.

Update of September 27, 2004: Sleazy Wells’ sleazy business: in New Jersey,

the Attorney General's Office has launched an investigation into bankrupt phone reseller NorVergence, and its financier: Wells Fargo Financial Leasing. Wells has continued to demand payment from former NorVergence customers who bought the company's "Matrix'' box. Customers typically signed five-year lease agreements for the box for tens of thousands of dollars, even though the box itself was worth far less. Steve Carlson, a spokesman for Wells Fargo Financial Leasing, tried to defend Wells’ position. "The customers made an independent decision to do business with NorVergence and we simply financed the equipment hardware lease transaction," he said. He said his company will comply with any applicable law or court order.   And yet still nothing from Wells, on its documented funding of payday lender directed as active duty soldiers...Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.

Update of September 13, 2004:  In New York on September 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated a portion of the claims in a class-action lawsuit against Wells Fargo and its home mortgage units alleging they improperly marked up fees for real estate settlement services performed by third parties. The 2d Circuit remanded the reinstated claim to U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York, after finding found that a group of homeowners in New York and California who used Wells Fargo settlement services had made sufficient arguments that the home mortgage units of Wells Fargo marked up fees for real estate services performed by third parties for the claim to proceed. The court found that the statute doesn't establish price controls for settlement services nor does it prohibit overcharges... And where does all this money go? Large Richard: Wells CEO Kovacevich sold 95,000 company shares last week through a family trust, according to an SEC filing. The K-man indirectly sold the shares last Thursday for $59.15 to $59.17 each, according to the Form 4 filing from September 7. After the transactions, the family trust beneficially held 1.51million Wells Fargo shares, the filing said. According to the company's most recent proxy statement, Kovacevich had 1.61 million Wells Fargo common shares as of Feb. 29 in trusts of which the CEO is a co-trustee. Like we said, Large Richard....

Update of September 6, 2004: We'll have more to say, when timely, about Wells Fargo's proposal to acquire Houston-based First Community Capital Corporation -- despite the opportunity, Wells never responded regarding its funding of payday lenders including those targeting the military (see below in this Report).

Update of August 16, 2004: From Forbes magazine’s recent send-up of Kovacevich: he says "his bigger competitors are cowards bound for trouble." Bank of America's purchase of FleetBoston for $48 billion? "Excessive." J.P. Morgan Chase's $57 billion payout for Bank One? "Both are running out of gas. I don't believe in economies of scale. You don't get better by being bigger. You get worse," Kovacevich says. Can’t say we disagree. But, among other things, why is this company funding Armed Forces Loans dot com, which targets high-cost payday loans at active duty soldiers. What, we ask, could be worse than that?

At an entirely different, more grassroots level: in Oklahoma City, WFF-ers are movin’ on: Ashley Nicole Craft, for example, has left her job as a "credit analyst in consumer lending" for Wells Fargo Financial in Oklahoma City and jumped to UMB Bank as a commercial banking officer...

Update of August 9, 2004: A HUD audit of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage found that WFHM improperly submitted 2,325 loans for late endorsement. According to a HUD inspector general report, Wells submitted the FHA loans more than 60 days after closing and the borrowers were delinquent on their payments. The IG is recommending that the HUD secretary require indemnification for any losses on the 2,325 loans. We'll see.

Update of August 2, 2004: From the editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel from their July 30 edition, "SunTrust was Right to End Business with Payday and Car Title Lenders" -- "SunTrust made its decision to cut ties with such lenders after a consumer group filed a complaint with the Federal Reserve opposing the bank's pending merger with National Financial Corp. of Memphis, Tenn. Among other complaints, Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch said records showed SunTrust had at least 60 customers making payday or car-title loans. Announcing its decision, SunTrust cited the ‘potential reputational risks and consumer harm’ that could come from lending to such companies. How candid, and how refreshing. ICP believes SunTrust's decision could persuade other banks -- especially those seeking government approval for mergers -- to follow suit. Let's hope so." Thanks, Orlando Sentinel. And what does Wells Fargo have to say, of any substance? We’ll report it here. Here also is an editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal of July 31:

"National Commerce Financial Corp. and SunTrust Banks recently decided to stop doing business with companies that provide payday or car title loans. The move, while commendable, appears to have been done to win favor with federal regulators who will decide whether to approve a merger between NCF and SunTrust. Whatever the motives, the decision shows why high interest loans that are frequently made to lower income borrowers deserve careful scrutiny....A protest by the Inner City Press/Community on the Move and Fair Finance Watch apparently helped NCF and SunTrust see the light... Those words should be a wake-up call to local companies that want to deal in those types of loans. Unless they're willing to accept more regulation and greater accountability, maybe more major financial institutions will follow the lead of NCF and SunTrust.
And then car title lenders will know what it feels like to struggle to get a loan."

  That last sentiment, we like how the Commercial Appeal's editorial board put it. (Click here for the full text of these editorial, and more). Still, what's up with Wells Fargo? Developing...  

Update of July 26, 2004: Last week the American Banker newspaper, reporting on SunTrust’s announcement in response to ICP’s presentation of UCC filings similar to those on Wells, correctly reported that ICP is "especially critical of Wells' financing of payday lenders that target military service members... Wells Fargo, according to Uniform Commercial Code filings in Nevada, finances Armed Forces Loans Inc. [That's the connection reported here two weeks ago]. Wells Fargo said that it carefully vets its borrowers. 'We have lending relationships with many financial institutions including consumer finance companies,' a spokeswoman said. "In these relationships we require representations and warranties as well as loan covenants requiring that the company comply with applicable laws and regulations.'" So high cost payday loans to active duty soldiers -- of the type denounced by base commands and even last week in the Senate by deputy undersecretary of defense Charles Abell -- these pass Wells Fargo's "carefully vetting"? Outrageous.

  While we await a more meaningful response by Wells Fargo, note this: on April 19, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage admitted that it was investigating the theft of a laptop computer containing consumer information, including the names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of thousands of customers who applied for mortgages. The laptop was taken from a rental car left by two employees, with the keys in the ignition, near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. It isn't the first public embarrassment for Wells Fargo. Last fall, a banking unit announced the theft of a computer from a Concord, Calif. office, which contained more than 200,000 names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and personal line of credit account numbers.

Update of July 19, 2004: Wells Fargo’s funding of payday lending, including the military-targeting Armed Forces Loans, was raised to the Federal Reserve and its chairman last week, by ICP. When first asked about the Fed’s duty to consider applicant banks’ connections with high-cost lenders, the Chairman says that if the Fed has its druthers, it would stamp out predatory lending... So as a test case, the Chairman being told of Wells Fargo’s funding of Armed Forces Loans, which targets active-duty service-members for high-cost loans. The Chairman nods; his staffer take a print-out of the evidence. Now what? More is detailed in this week’s Inner City Press Fed Watch Report (click here to view.

Update of July 12, 2004: Wells Fargo's enabling of predatory fringe finance is the subject of a new report by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch. ICP has identified dozens of payday and car title lenders which are financed by Wells Fargo. Perhaps the worst is Wells’ funding of a payday lender whose focus is soldiers: Armed Forces Loans, Inc., of 3824 South Jones, Las Vegas, Nevada. Here are a sample dirty dozen financed by Wells Fargo:

EXPRESS TITLE & PAYDAY LOANS, INC. of 1131 WARREN LANE, VERNON HILLS, ILLINOIS 60061, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., according to an Illinois Uniform Commercial Code filing

EZ PAWN HOLDINGS, INC., of 1901 CAPITAL PARKWAY, AUSTIN, TX 78746 (financed by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as recently as April 13, 2004, according to Uniform Commercial Code filings);

ADVANCE AMERICA CASH ADVANCE CENTERS, headquartered as 135 NORTH CHURCH STREET, SPARTANBURG, SC 29306, multiply financed by Wells Fargo, including in 2004;

PAYDAY INC of 5021 INDIAN SCHOOL RD NE, ALBUQUERQUE, NM 87110

PAYDAY PLUS of 425 HILL AVENUE, GRAFTON, ND 58237, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK NORTH DAKOTA, NATIONAL ASSOC

PAYDAY LOAN MANAGEMENT, INC. of 1901 CAPITAL PARKWAY, AUSTIN, TX 78746, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK TEXAS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

AUTO PAWN, INC. of 7534 HICKMAN RD, DES MOINES, IA 50322, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK IOWA, N.A., according to Iowa UCC records;

PAYDAY LOANS III, L.L.C. in Idado, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.

PAYDAY EXPRESS, of 4302 SOUTH 24TH STREET, OMAHA, NE 68107, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK NEBRASKA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

1 STOP CHECK CASHING $ PAYDAY & TITLE LOANS, LLC, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, according to a May 6, 2004, Arizona UCC filing

TITLE LOANS EXPRESS, INC. of 4295 SAN FELIPE, HOUSTON, TEXAS 77027, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK TEXAS, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION

MAC DIANE'S PAWN CENTER in Michigan;

and, again, ARMED FORCES LOANS INC. of 3824 S JONES STE G, LAS VEGAS, NV 89103...

  This is being raised, including to the Federal Reserve; developing...

Update of June 14, 2004: Alongside the other Wells Fargo Financial news last week, the actual Maryland Commission on Human Relations subpoena on WFF was interesting. Among other things, it asks for "any and all underwriting guidelines, policies and standards of WFF applicable to applications for loans secured by residential real estate (owner occupied) in the State of Maryland at any time during the period of January 1, 2002 to the present."

Update of June 1, 2004: Loving sleaze of any kind, Wells last week bought disgraced mutual fund company Strong Financial Corporation, for $500 million...

Update of May 17, 2004: Wells keeps chewing up insurance agencies, most recently in Dayton, Ohio, the Baldwin & Whitney Insurance Agency., swallowed by Wells' Acordia, which lists itself as the world's sixth largest insurance brokerage, with more than 150 offices in 38 states and premiums worth $6.5 billion. Much of this business, by the way, is sleazy...

Update of May 10, 2004: Who knew? Wells Fargo Financial, the subprime lender, has a basketball team in Guam. The Pacific Daily News of Hagatna, Guam, on May 3 reported that Wells Fargo Financial got some big help from its big men to win 58-43. Wells Fargo Financial power forward Conrad Berg had 17 points." Fast break for predatory lending! Including, as ICP asserted and is tracking, Wells' export of predatory lending...

Update of May 3, 2004: at the shareholders' meeting last week, Wells CEO Dickie the K at least had to respond to the predatory lending issues, even if this response consisted of adamant and repeated denials...

Update of April 26, 2004: Last week, ICP attended and raised predatory lending issues at Citigroup's annual shareholders' meeting (click here to view ICP's report). Similar question are on the agenda for AIG's annual meeting. This week in San Francisco, Wells Fargo's shareholders are meeting, to vote among other things as Item Six on a resolution that would merely provides that the "Board conduct a special executive compensation review to study ways of linking executive compensation to successfully addressing predatory lending practices." Wells Fargo is recommending that shareholders vote against the proposal, claiming that it already has anti-predatory lending policies in place (using an absurdly narrow definition of predatory lending, from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which has "enhanced" the national bank charter with laxity and preemption). But nothing is said -- neither in the proponent's statement nor Wells Fargo's response -- about whether even Wells' weak U.S. "safeguards" apply to its lending outside of the U.S.. We think not... ICP posed this question directly, at the Citigroup shareholders' meeting (again, click here to view ICP's report); we'd hope Wells will be made to answer it in San Francisco...

Update of April 19, 2004: Quiet but greedy: it turns out that Dick Kovacevich is the seventh highest paid CEO, when one cumulates salary and cashing in stock options and incentives, at a whopping. $35.9 million...

Update of April 12, 2004: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage's manager for the Dakotas, Conley Ruud, was hard-selling loans last week, gushing that "It still is a good time to get in on the low rates, whether you're looking to buy your first home or trade up to a larger home. It makes sense to do it now, while rates are really good. It's a no-brainer." When asked for his volume, the response was that Wells Fargo does not release numbers of mortgages processed...

Update of April 5, 2004: Wells-o-rama: The ruling In re Willard, Paul and Julie, 14 CBN 274 (Bankr. D. Nev. 2004) -- The bankruptcy court sanctioned a national mortgage company and its local counsel for filing an inaccurate motion for stay relief and then not acting promptly to correct their mistake. What it means: Creditors may be held responsible for not providing accurate information to their counsel and then not cooperating with debtors to correct the mistakes caused by that inaccurate information. Summary: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc. asked the bankruptcy court to lift the automatic stay because the debtors, who filed for Chapter 13 relief on Jan. 2, 1999, had missed payments due for May, June and July 2003. Subsequently, the lender's counsel acknowledged that a mistake had been made and that the missing payments were for September 2001 and December 2002. The debtors provided the lender's attorney with copies of the checks used to make these payments and notified counsel that they would seek Rule 9011 sanctions if the motion to lift the stay was not withdrawn within 21 days. The motion was withdrawn, but it took 24 days. The court sanctioned the lender's attorney 4,900 for not amending the motion as soon as he became aware of the error and for not withdrawing it as soon as he was offered proof of the debtors' payment. The court sanctioned Wells Fargo 25,000 for showing a "complete disregard for their duty to borrowers." 

Update of March 29, 2004: Wells has amended its SEC filing to admit that it contributed $41,350 in corporate funds to various political entities and candidates in 2003. Fancy footwork, in advance of the annual shareholders' meeting... Moving to take over Wells Fargo's Nebraska operations is Terry Zink, who last week was quoted that ""The challenge is to let people know that we're more than a bank." Yeah -- Wells is a predatory lender, too.. Zink also said that he "supervised banks spread around several Los Angeles suburbs, a region that he said lacks a sense of community." But that's not what he said while in California... Typical Wells duplicity.

Update of March 22, 2004: Wells, home of the lost laptop with customer data, has now been hit with two concerted "phishing" campaigns in the last week. In a press release, Wells says it's "in no way involved in the distribution of this hoax e-mail" and as a policy would never ask for private customer information by e-mail. Wendy Grover, senior vice president of corporate communication at Wells Fargo, said the company is working with local authorities to handle the matter and has instructed bankers to follow normal bank procedure in dealing with fraud by closing any accounts that are impacted...

Update of March 15, 2004: More on Wells' subprime auto loans: on March 11, Fitch rated Wells Fargo Financial Auto Owner Trust 2004-A asset-backed notes, stating that "the 2004-A transaction marks Wells Fargo Financial, Inc.'s (WFF) first securitization. The 2004-A notes are backed by a pool of subprime retail installment sales contracts secured by new and used automobiles and light duty trucks"...

Update of March 8, 2004: On March 5, Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services announced with scanty details that it "will a provide a private-label credit card program for Gallery Furniture, a Houston-based retailer that sells more than $150 million in furniture annually. The program will include a dedicated line of credit for Gallery Furniture customers that promotes greater shopping frequency." Sort of like with Wells Fargo Financial's own flipped loans -- the more frequent the churning, t he more profitable...

Update of March 1, 2004: How 'bout high cost auto lending? It's another of Wells Fargo's businesses. According to Reuters, Wells was "readying a bond pooling nonprime auto loans worth $500 million, market sources said on Monday [Feb. 23]. This is Wells Fargo's first non-prime auto loan bond, sources said. The offering, Wells Fargo Financial Auto 2004-A, has Citigroup and Deutsche Bank Securities as lead managers"...  

Update of February 23, 2004: from Inner City Press' Wells Fargo mailbag:

To: WellsWatch [at] InnerCityPress.org

I thought I was the only one Wells Fargo has victimized but from reading the articles on your site, I can see I'm not alone. At present, Wells Fargo is foreclosing on my home... I was behind on my payments, but have since caught up. They have my money and are still attempting to foreclose on my home... Wells Fargo advised me to reinstate the loan I need to pay over $9,000... Plus their attorney is trying to gouge me with their fees again.

Update of February 16, 2004: While anti-predatory lending laws are being preempted and / or abandoned in the continental United States, in Guam an interesting proposal is moving forward: Bill 173, introduced by Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Chalan Pago, would amend and update the property attachment and execution exemption law. It states that a debtor's homestead are exempt from seizure for the claims of creditors. It also lists personal property exemptions, including furniture, tools and books used for work, clothes, two firearms, and motor vehicles for each member of a family. The bill is being opposed by industry, including U.S.-based subprime lender Wells Fargo Financial. It is now pending in the Committee on Judiciary and Transportation... If Wells Fargo can export predatory lending, consumer protection, too, must be exported... Meanwhile, the search for the truth about Wells Fargo continues. Last week, Inner City Press filed a Freedom of Information Act appeal with the Federal Reserve Board in DC of the FRB's decision that, regarding Wells Fargo, "547 full pages and portions of other pages will be withheld from you." ICP has re-requested numerous purportedly "Confidential" Exhibits - "Question 5 - Exhibit 1" (regarding relationships with subprime lenders); "Question 6 - Exhibit 1" (regarding overrides); "Question 8 - Exhibit 1" ("Store bulletins" regarding credit insurance sales); "Question 9 - Exhibits 1-4;" "Question 10 - Exhibit 1" ("Deferred Origination Fee Waiver Policy," etc);

"Question 11 - Exhibits 1-13;" "Question 12 - Exhibit 1" (regarding Wells' supposed "Tangible Net Benefits Test"); "Question 16 - Exhibit 1" (regarding Wells' own payday lending) and "Question 17 - Exhibit 1" (Wells relations with other payday lenders), etc.. The results of this FOIA appeal will be report on this site, upon receipt..

Update of February 9, 2004: from the mailbag:

Subj: My Wells Fargo account

Date: 2/6/04 5:29:35 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

...I began receiving an almost daily series of phone calls. Because the message started once my phone picked up the call, all I was able to hear was a phone number and not much else. About a week later, I finally called the number, found out it was Wells Fargo calling, and kept on the line. It was virtually impossible to reach a human, but I was able to do so eventually. The person on the phone asked me to verify my information, then proceeded to ask me a series of what I considered to be harassing questions (i.e., "Are you living in the mortgaged property and do you plan to keep it?"). Eventually I was able to pin the person down, and all this was about a (by then) 26 day late payment. I asked for the exact address to which I should send the payment, and the next day overnighted it from my place of employment.

Imagine my shock on Feb. 5, over a week later, to find another phone call on my machine from guess who? I called and they had never posted the payment to my account! On my electronic banking, I was able to see that indeed the check had been cashed the very next day, and that it was received at the address I sent it to. I was virtually forced to do an electronic payment because they threatened foreclosure on my mortgage. They did say they would open a trace on the first check I sent, and I was to call the next day (today).

I called this morning and they would not give me any information, saying that it was still an "open investigation." So then I went in to a local branch here, and finally I was able to get someone to say that they were posting the first check and that everything would be straightened out by Monday. So, all this to ask a question: To whom do I write to register my complaint?

Our interim answer: write to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which claims to be on top of Wells Fargo's mortgage company, and all other national banks and their operating subsidiaries... Fax (according to the OCC's web site) to 713-336-4301 -- and let us know what happens next...

Update of February 2, 2004: Among the documents belatedly provided to Inner City Press by the Federal Reserve are a series of e-mails, in August 2003, from Wells Fargo's Bruce U. Morland to the Department of Justice and to Fed staffers -- communications that Wells Fargo should have, but did not, provide to ICP and other (antitrust) commenters. Ah, transparency...

Update of January 26, 2004: Last week Wells CFO Howie Atkins denied that Wells sees a need to do a big deal (i.e., Wachovia), but rather will continue to focus on smaller deals, like 2003's of Pacific Northwest Bancorp take-over. Regarding that deal, the Federal Reserve is only now getting around to ruling on ICP's FOIA appeal -- the documents, they say, are coming...

Update of January 20, 2004: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation's largest mortgage lender, said that since mid-December "a couple dozen people" have received notices they would be laid off in 60 days. The West Des Moines-based company would not say how many temporary workers have been let go. It would say only that it "made incremental changes" among that work force more than 60 days ago. --from the Des Moines Register's intrepid S.P. Dinnen.

Update of January 12, 2004: following the Comptroller of the Currency's preemption order last week, the Hartford Courant caught Wells Fargo gloating: its spokeswoman Janis Smith mouthed the pabulum that "A patchwork of inconsistent rules passed by states and municipalities is not in the best interest of either consumers or businesses." Yep, let's count on Wells Fargo Financial (and CitiFinancial, Chase and Household) to tell us about consumers' best interests...

Update of January 5, 2004: In the run-up to Christmas, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage announced that it would lay off 170 people who process, underwrite and close home loans and refinancings, from its operations center in Riverside, California...

Update of December 29, 2003: the SF Chronicle of Dec. 23 notes that Wells Fargo, too, says it has "received queries from regulators" in the mutual fund scandal probe... Happy holidays. 

Update of December 22, 2003: in the San Francisco Chronicle of Dec. 21, David Lazarus asks some good questions:

In light of the recent theft and subsequent recovery of a computer containing sensitive information on thousands of Wells Fargo customers nationwide, people doing business with the bank have every right to be asking: Why did Wells hand the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of so many customers to an outside consultant? Why was that consultant permitted to store such information on a computer in his office, located in an unlocked commercial suite adjacent to a Concord sports bar? What lessons has the San Francisco bank learned about outsourcing customer data? At this point, Wells Fargo is saying little more than "no comment."

  That's not going to cut it...

Update of December 15, 2003: According to the National Mortgage News of Dec. 8, of the top ten subprime lenders, Wells Fargo's production rose fastest, by 137%, comparing the third quarter of 2003 to the previous year... Meanwhile, we reiterate: Bank of America securitized Wells Fargo's subprime loans. How and who will address this, in the Bank of America-Fleet proceeding, remains to be seen...

Update of December 8, 2003: Wells' corporate welfare is not limited to Des Moines or even to Iowa: take Springfield, Illinois, for example, where Wells Fargo Home Mortgage has broken ground for an office building. Wells is getting government "assistance," including $350,000 in motor fuel tax funds...

Update of December 1, 2003: earlier this year, Inner City Press reported on Wells Fargo's quiet attempts to export its subprime (and predatory) lending outside of the U.S.. Well, the Toronto Star of Nov. 25, 2003, now reports that Wells "has a presence in Canada with Trans Canada Credit Corp., a high-interest consumer loan company that offers mortgages to those with a poor credit rating. Now Wells Fargo has branched out in Canada with a new division called HomePlan Mortgage that will do business with a focus on those who would be rejected by a bank. It will accept business from mortgage brokers starting tomorrow. Maurice (Moe) Forget, vice-president and general manager, told the annual conference of the Canadian Institute of Mortgage Brokers and Lenders yesterday that HomePlan will lend up to 85 per cent of a home's value one year after a discharge from bankruptcy, and 100 per cent after two years... Forget won hoots of approval from brokers when he announced the loans for the recently bankrupt, or at least those who have re-established a record of repaying smaller loans."

    Moe Forget - you can't make this stuff up... The American Banker of Dec. 1, 2003, says that ICP-published novel Predatory Bender "blend[s] the images of companies such as Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. One section reads: 'While ostensibly the fruit of three decades of community struggle, the land beneath the mall was owned by Anguilla-based EmpiBank. The anchor tenant, too, was a part of Empi's empire: a storefront office in the high-rate lender EmpiFinancial. Jack Bender had worked for EmpiBank on the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina, the so-called Queen City.'" -- yep... To those two you could add Wells Fargo Financial -- practices like its are described in both the novel and the afterword.... Click here for more.

Update of November 24, 2003: our question this week is, who knew that Wells Fargo securitized its subprime loans through Bank of America? This is detailed in Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch's comment to the Federal Reserve on BofA-Fleet (click here to view); some of the deals are:

CIK                Company                                                                       State

0001224458 ABFC MORTGAGE LOAN ASSET BACKED CERT SERIES 2003-WF1 MD
SIC: 6189 - Asset-Backed Securities

0001201861 ABFC MORTGAGE LOAN ASSET BACKED CERTIFICATES SERIES 2002 WF2 NC
SIC: 6189 - Asset-Backed Securities

0001169498 ABFC MORTGAGE LOAN ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATES SERIES 2002-WF1 NC

0001170159 ABFC MORTGAGE LOAN ASSET-BACKED CERTIFICATES SERIES 2002-WF1 NC

ABFC is Asset Backed Funding Corporation, 100% owned by Bank of America... In corporate welfare follow-up news, for Wells Fargo Financial's planned nine-story building in downtown Des Moines (north side of Walnut Street between Eighth and Ninth streets), "[t][he city is prepared to put up more than $10 million in assistance over 20 years." That's a lot of money, to host a predatory lender... 

Update of November 17, 2003: talk about grassroots -- in Greensboro, NC, Wells Fargo Financial will open another predatory -- oops! subprime -- lending office, in the "Granite's Shoppes at Wendover Village." Yuck. Meanwhile, state-by-state action on predatory lending, including Wells', is addressed in this new ICP map, which may be of use during the BofA-Fleet process -- click here to view and use.

Update of November 10, 2003: Discrimination by Wells Fargo Financial is not only by race, ethnicity and gender -- on Nov. 3, the EEOC announced a settlement in an age-discrimination lawsuit against Wells Fargo Financial Texas. After EEOC-initiated mediation failed, the federal agency filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, in June...

Update of November 3, 2003: Barron's of November 3 lists, as possible Wells Fargo targets, the following three banks: Suntrust, Bank One, and PNC. Regarding this last, see ICP's Bank Beat report....

Update of October 27, 2003: Wells Fargo's earnings announcement last week included this: that revenue at its subprime (and, separately, predatory) unit Wells Fargo Financial rose by 20% compared to the 3rd quarter of 2002; operating profit was up 32% to $121 million. Gouging is profitable...

Update of October 20, 2003: in the Federal Reserve's Wells Fargo Orders last week, the Fed acknowledges disparities in Wells Fargo's lending to African Americans and Latinos - higher than aggregate denial rate disparities, and low penetration rates in "minority" census tracts. Order at 15. But the Order dodges the fee-gouging issues (note 18), and, in dealing with WFF and Island Finance, expects the commenters to show the full range of interest rates (rather than having asked Wells Fargo for that information). So we'll be pursuing it...

Update of October 13, 2003: at the Consumer Banker Association's Fair Lending Conference, the associate general counsel of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Heidi Mason, pontificated that "If you don't proactively manage relationships, you will be liable, especially in the court of public opinion." Mason said there are "checklists available all over the place" that detail red flags, such as litigation and complaints filed against a company. "Make sure you have fair lending policies and add these to your agreements with third parties... Controls and monitoring are important, too," Mason said, noting that lenders should establish policies governing maximum broker compensation and loan origination fees, total fees and the types of fees that can be charged. All very nice sounding -- but not consistent with the policies of Wells Fargo Financial, not in the U.S. and even less so overseas...

Update of October 6, 2003: we'll be back on the Wells - corporate welfare beat -- but last week, we obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request summaries of some complaints against Wells Fargo Financial (in the below, the "Company," with addresses including Des Moines, Edina MN, Sioux Falls SD, including:

- "company calls and harasses consumer at work and consumer has asked company to stop calling them at work;"

- "Consumer received payment notices for an account he knows nothing about;"

- "Consumer sent the company a check to pay off their loan and close the account. Company did not close the account;"

- "Consumer co-signed on a vehicle and the company repossessed it without written notice, while consumer was current on payments;"

- "Company tried to convince consumer to take out another loan and she said no. Consumer says the company deposited money in her account anyway;"

- "Consumer took out a loan with the company and used her vehicle as collateral and gave the company the title to her vehicle. Consumer has paid off the loan but the company is given her the runaround on returning her title;" etc..

   What's striking in all this is how the predatory problems at Wells Fargo go well beyond mortgages (and, as detailed below on this page, beyond the United States)....

Update of September 29, 2003: More on Wells and corporate welfare -- and, this time, the Federal Home Loan Bank System providing property to a predatory lender. It was reported on September 22, "the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines said it may consider selling another piece of property in the same block [of downtown Des Moines] to Wells Fargo." Wells is "looking at possible locations for expanding its nationwide consumer finance unit, which has headquarters in downtown Des Moines." Wells has lined it up to "receive about $20 million in incentives from state agencies if it builds in the Des Moines area. The company is seeking an additional $25 million in incentives from West Des Moines, mostly in the form of the city paying for extending streets, water lines and sewer lines to a new office complex. Officials have said that if Wells Fargo Financial expands in downtown, Des Moines would be expected to provide additional incentives, probably in the form of employee parking." (Predatory lenders need parking, mind you -- but from the Federal Home Loan Bank System?) "The downtown property acquired last week is directly across Walnut Street from the $90 million addition completed last year at Wells Fargo Financial's headquarters... The 91-year-old building, called the Davidson Building, houses Schaffer's Bridal & Formal Shop and a handful of small businesses. The building is assessed for tax purposes at $524,500. A parking lot owned by Federal Home Loan Bank is immediately west of the Davidson Building... Nicky Schissel, a spokeswoman for the [FHLBDM], said 'there have been conversations with the city' about turning the bank property between Eighth and Ninth streets over to Wells Fargo for development." Well(s), developing...

Update of September 22, 2003: Wells Fargo and corporate welfare: by threatening to leave to an unnamed state, Wells managed to corral over 40% of Iowa's statewide Department of Transportation's RISE grant allotment. RISE stands for Revitalize Iowa's Sound Economy, but it sounds like it's Wells' economy that's being revitalized. The money would be used to pay for a new section of 74th Street and improvements to Grand Avenue that will provide access to the proposed new Wells Fargo campus south of I-80 and west of I-35. The project has a total cost of $13.8 million, the remaining $3.9 million of which would be provided by the city through the issuance of tax increment financing (TIF) bonds. Wells claims that another state is "competing" to gets a new Wells Fargo Financial back office... Wells shakes down municipalities like WFF shakes down customers, it seems... 

Update of September 15, 2003: speaking late at the Lehman Brothers financial industry shin-dig September 8, Dick Kovacevic sang a song of Wells Fargo Financial:

Wells Fargo Financial -- our consumer finance company -- was the crowned jewel of Norwest in the 80's and early 90's. Their growth slowed in the 90's and earning fell in 1997 and 1998 because of a planned pull back in their business due primarily to irrational competition. A new management team and focus in late 1999 began a turn around for the company... In the past, Financial focused too much on their higher ROI unsecured lending business, and gave up growth opportunities in the lower ROI, but faster growing real estate and auto secured (ph) lending segment... Our focus is selling all the financial products our customer needs or cross selling... For consumer households that we sell them two products we make on average of about $200 a year. If we sell that same customer nine or more products we make $872 a year... Part of our effort is simply getting existing Wells Fargo customers to buy from us what they're already buying from other providers.

   Yeah-- like loan sharks.

Update of September 8, 2003: In a September 4 response to additional Federal Reserve questions, Wells Fargo among other things prevaricated thus: "Wells Fargo Financial "does not classify credit as prime or subprime as a factor in setting APRs. However, the vast majority of WFF's real estate loans are to customers who would typically be characterized by others as subprime." Wells then describes providing some of WFF's customers with the phone number of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage -- but claims those cold referrals are based on the product requests (i.e., no cash out), not on credit score. So the obvious next question: does WFF offer a prime product? Or, to deal with Wells evasion, does WFF offer a product which "would typically be characterized by others as subprime"?

Squib of September 1, 2003: Ah, Wells... On August 26, Wells vaguely announced, without specifics, a proposal to acquire Benson Associates LLC, a institutional money manager with $1.3 billion of equity assets under management for "undisclosed terms."

Update of August 25, 2003: No response yet from the Federal Reserve on the Freedom of Information Act appeal for what Wells Fargo is trying to withhold. In the interim, we've noticed yet another way in which Wells' "Island Finance" has even weaker compliance programs than Wells Fargo Financial. In response to a Fed question for subprime lending volume data by product, Wells Fargo has stated that "[b]ecause Island does not track volume along product lines these numbers are not broken down in that fashion." This statement is not made for Wells Fargo Financial... 

Update of August 18, 2003: the Federal Reserve has asked Wells Fargo a number of questions about its community reinvestment and fair lending performance, particularly about its subprime lending operations. On July 21 and July 25, ICP raised issues to the Fed concerning a particularly Wells subprime subsidiary, based in Puerto Rico and active within and outside of the United States, named Island Finance. On July 31, the Fed asked Wells seventeen questions, including "[d]escribe in detail Wells Fargo's corporate programs to monitor compliance with the fair lending and consumer protection laws and regulations... Include in your response a description of any policies, procedures, and practices with respect to... complaints," by subsidiary.

  In its August 11 response, Wells states that "Island Finance does not have a specialized customer service department or a toll-free telephone number for complaints. Customers who have complaints contact the store handling their account. If the store is unable to resolve the complaint the complaint if referred to the district manager. If the district manager is unable to resolve the complaint it is referred [to] the district manager's supervisor."

   That Island Finance has even less consumer protection safeguards that Wells Fargo Financial's overall operations is significant -- and potentially violative of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, given the demographics of Island Finance's headquarters and its lending operations. ICP has now raised this to the Fed. Wells has also requested "confidential treatment" for large portions of its response, which ICP has now re-requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Developing... 

Update of August 11, 2003: Wells Fargo is becoming used to getting kicked around, being confronted with detailed tales of predatory lending... So, in its August 7 response to the Federal Reserve to ICP's comments, Wells summarized that "ICP references... customer examples," and then states:

"It is Wells Fargo's policy to deal directly with customers on any issues that may arise in their relationship with us. We have a long-standing policy and process for responding to customers who have complaints. We research those complaints carefully and as promptly as possible and if we have erred, we do what is right for the customer. Due to financial privacy concerns, we cannot and do not discuss our customers' financial matters with nonparties to the transactions."

  Which is a fancy way of saying, "We're not going to answer, nya nya, nya"...  

Update of August 4, 2003: Here's been Wells Fargo's response, to date: a Wells spokesperson named Christie Drumm said (in a monotone, presumably) that "the allegations are without merit" (that's from the Rocky Mountain News); to the L.A. Times, an unnamed Wells spokesman was even more evasive, pointing to Wells' banks' CRA ratings when a main issue is Wells' non-bank finance company. The LA Times reported (correctly) that "Inner City Press maintained, Wells Fargo is 'exporting these practices' to the Caribbean through Island Finance, a Puerto Rican consumer-finance lender it owns." Wells' outgoing general counsel Stanley Stroup mailed in a letter purporting to respond to the issues ICP has raised -- but it limited itself, for now, to ICP's initial letter which asked for an extension of the comment period. And Wells' response on the predatory lending issues, including those beyond the continental 48 states?

   ICP's  July 25, 2003 comment:

July 25, 2003

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Attn:  Chairman Alan Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20551

Re: The applications of Wells Fargo & Co. to acquire (1) Pacific Northwest Bancorp & Pacific Northwest Bank, Seattle, Washington AND (2) Two Rivers Corp. & Bank of Grand Junction, Grand Junction, Colorado

Dear Chairman Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson, et al.:

   On behalf of Inner City Press/Community on the Move and its members and affiliates, and the Fair Finance Watch (collectively, "ICP"), this is a second timely comment in opposition to the applications of Wells Fargo & Co. and its affiliates ("Wells Fargo") to acquire Two Rivers Corp. & Bank of Grand Junction, Grand Junction, Colorado ("Two Rivers"), and Pacific Northwest Bancorp & Pacific Northwest Bank, Seattle, Washington ("Pacific Northwest"). ICP initially commented on both applications on July 21, and asked for an extension of the Two Rivers comment period; on July 22, ICP received phone message from Board staff extending the Two Rivers comment period until July 25.

    Beyond the 2001 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act ("HMDA") analysis, citations to the public record on Wells' ties to payday lenders, etc., in the July 21 comment, and while continuing to await the FRB's too-slow release of the 2002 HMDA data, this submission directs the FRB to certain of Wells Fargo's subprime-lending affiliates, particularly those operating standardlessly outside of the continental United States, in Canada, Panama and elsewhere. First, a sample consumer abuse by Wells Fargo in the U.S., based on messages directed to ICP, and documents annexed hereto:

In a message dated 5/28/03 10:07:14 PM Eastern Daylight Time, [ ] @bellsouth.net writes: [to ICP's Wells Watch]

Hello,

Are you aware of anyone having problems with Wells Fargo giving false information to credit bureaus. I have had them for two years now, have never had a late payment and yet they are reporting that I have 8 late payments (4 of which are 90 day lates) I have been trying since the first of January to fix this and I am getting nowhere....

Then:

In a message dated 7/22/03 6:56:44 PM Eastern Daylight Time, [ ] @bellsouth.net writes:

...They say because I am in bankruptcy that they have to report it in a special way, that they are not reporting me late at all but the credit report has lates all over it. I have had a perfect payment history for two years and yet I am now refinancing at higher rate because they have all of those lates on my report. Every time I get it corrected with the bureaus I have to wait a couple of months but I just get more new lates from Wells. They have sent me a payment history showing I have not had any lates but again by the time I get that to the bureaus I have new lates on my report. I will see what I can fax...

And see attached, which we are asking the FRS to act on. See also,


Subj: Wells Fargo Bank
Date: 7/11/03 9:25:55 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: [Jeffrey W.]
To: [WellsWatch at] innercitypress.org

Hello, I noticed [your work] regarding Wells Fargo Bank. I am enclosing a copy of a letter that I am sending to the bank. If you have any questions, please contact me. Thanks.

                                                                       July 11, 2003
Mr. Alan Johnson, President
Oregon and Washington Region
Wells Fargo Home Equity
Post Office Box 4233
Portland, OR 97208-4233

Re: Complaint, Fraud and Abusive Billing Practices

Dear Mr. Johnson:

I am writing to complain about Wells Fargo's deceptive home equity operations. To give you some background: I had a home equity loan with Wells Fargo for several years. I paid the loan off in January 2003 because of very poor customer relations.

These relations culminated in a phone conversation with a representative of your bank when she told me she could not provide the figures to quote me the amount of interest in dollars that I would be paying over the future of the loan. I was told that it "was a complicated formula and I would have to figure it out myself".

Since I have paid the loan off, I have been besieged with offers from your company to reopen the loan; I have refused all offers to deal business with your company. Over the past several months, I have been receiving a monthly bill from your company for $50.00. There is no explanation on the bill for this charge.

When I called your very rude employees, I was told this was my charge for a "home equity access fee". When I explained that I did not want this service, I was told I would have to send a fax to your company telling them in writing that I did not want this service. They would not do this via phone message.

Mr. Johnson, isn't it a bit ridiculous to have to send a letter or fax telling a company that you do not want a service that you never requested in the first place? A service that I am currently being charged $50.00 monthly? What if other companies were to adopt this same practice? I work in the healthcare industry; we do not send indiscriminate bills out to our patients, with a caveat of requesting they notify us in writing if they do not want this service.

So here is it in writing: I do not want this service, I do not wish to do business with Wells Fargo, ever again. Please purge me from your mailing, e-mail and telephone call listings. I would also like a written explanation as to why this policy exists within your organization. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey W.

CC: Inner City Press

  And see attached, which we are asking the FRS to act on.

   ICP first became aware of Wells Fargo's subprime lender Island Finance in 1997, when the company (1) opened an office at 2866 Third Avenue in the South Bronx which charged 25% interest rates to all customers, without regard to credit history, then (2) closed the office and required the customers they'd lured to travel to a Wells Fargo Financial office in Queens or have "lates" imposed on their credit history (see supra, and see Village Voice of July 15, 1997).

   Wells' Island Finance is (sub-) headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has branches in Panama, Aruba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Netherlands Antilles. It is a high-rate lender, and is also embroiled in litigation with its employees. See, e.g., Jagroop v. Island Fin. V.I., Inc., (U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Island, Division of St. Croix), 240 F. Supp. 2d 370; 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25153. Tellingly, Wells CEO Dick Kovacevich lobbied in person in May 2002 against a proposal in the Puerto Rican legislature, House Bill 1288, to impose a usury cap of 19.75%. See, Caribbean Business, May 16, 2002, quoting 27% interest rates and Kovacevich that, with the proposed rate cap, " I feel I’m being told Wells Fargo is not welcome in Puerto Rico... I don’t want to be threatening, just factual," and characterizing Wells as the U.S.'s "number one 'NAFTA bank,' with more banking stores and assets than any competitor within 60 miles of Mexico and Canada." (As to Wells' high-rate lending in Canada, see infra). As Wells / Island showed in The Bronx, they charge rates right up to any applicable usury cap, without regard for the borrowers credit history profile -- that is, NOT pricing by risk.

   In acquiring Island Finance, Kovacevich said that it portended further "expansion into other Latin American markets." (PR Newswire of May 4, 1995.) Subsequently, Wells also acquired a consumer finance company in Argentina, Finvercon S.A. Compania Financiera , which resulted in litigation: see, 86 F. Supp. 2d 212. At the time, Wells stated that one-quarter of its WFF consumer finance stores "is outside the 50 U.S. states," noting that it had recently also "acquired Reliable Financial Services, Inc., an auto finance company headquartered in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, which manages $200 million in receivables." (PR Newswire of January 12, 1998.) Wells also lists "Island Finance" subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, British West Indies, and in Trinidad and Tobago, and operates under the name "Financiera el Sol" in Panama. [FN: It also appears that Wells / Island operate as "Credisol" in Costa Rica. While WFC's 2000 10-K lists, for WFF, offices in Brazil, Hong Kong and Taiwan, there's no further mention of these stealth, presumably high-rate consumer finance operations.]

   Wells Fargo is also engaged in controversial high-rate finance in Canada, under the brand name Trans Canada Credit. In New York, Wells' Island Finance charged 25% interest because that is the usury cap. In Canada, Wells' " Trans Canada Credit charges 28.9 per cent interest." See, Hamilton Spectator, June 26, 2003, Pg. C2, " Buy Now / Pay Later Plans Can Become Costly," recounting the following sample Wells loan:

The first thing Labatte did receive appeared to be a credit card statement, showing a limit of $4,150, a billing date of Jan. 23 and a due date of Feb. 23. It stated no minimum payment was owed. Two more monthly statements followed, but Labatte claimed no statements arrived in April or May. He and his spouse both worked and failed to notice the six-month deferment period had expired. By the time they started making inquiries, a representative of Trans Canada Credit informed them they'd missed the deadline for their "no-interest" offer and now owed approximately $600 in interest payments, dating back to the original date of purchase in November 2002.

   In fact, Wells' Trans Canada Credit charges 30% interest annually -- but misleading consumers by quoting it monthly: "Having trouble managing your credit card debt? Perhaps I could interest you in a consolidation loan at a mere 2.5%. Sound good? Not if the rate is 2.5% per month, or a whopping 30% per annum. Yet with interest rates at a 41-year low, and prime sitting at 3.75%, I was surprised to find Trans Canada Credit pitching me such a loan recently as part of a mass mailing. To Trans Canada's credit (pardon the pun), they didn't trumpet a rate of 2.5% on their mailing. But when I phoned to get some idea of the interest rate, I was quoted 2.5% a month." See, Toronto Sun, January 20, 2002, Pg. 55, "A Costly House of Cards;" see also, Toronto Star, April 6, 2000, "High-Cost Payday Loans Prey on the Vulnerable."

   Beyond Wells' enabling of payday lending in the United States -- see, e.g., Business Wire of June 11, 2002, in which the payday lender Dollar Financial Group announced an amendment to its credit agreement with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. -- Wells owns (at least) the following insurance companies [string cite omitted] and Centurion Life Ins. Co. (MO) The last of these is described in A.M. Best's most recent company report as benefiting "from its parent's consumer lending business growth as it markets credit life and disability income products through nearly a thousand consumer finance offices of Wells Fargo." Wells in the U.S. also offers "single premium term life insurance," see, e.g., <http://financial.wellsfargo.com/consumer/insurance/index.html>. Also problematic is Wells' Aman Collection Service, see, e.g., Jackson v. Aman Collection Serv., 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22238, U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division (collection letter could not be said to not violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, where it included only an unstated amount of accruing interest, and no date from which it accrued).

   Wells' involvement in the subprime industry goes beyond its own lending, and encompasses its activities as master service, custodian and trustee (the latter two, mostly through Wells Fargo Bank Minneapolis). See, e.g., DLJ ABS Tr Mtg P-T Ctfs, Series 2000-3; DELTA FUNDING CORP HM EQ LN HEL SE 01 2 (Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, National Association, custodian).

   Wells was willing to serve as trustee for Delta even during the period for which it was charged with predatory lending by government agencies; the same has continued, more recently, in connection with the loans of Household International's HFC. See, e.g., the May 2, 2003, Prospectus filing for STRUCTURED ASSET INVESTMENT LOAN TRUST, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2003-BC3: loans by, inter alia, HFC, "Trustee: Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, National Association." What standards for Wells Fargo have for this business? Apparently none.

   We also remain concerned about the weak (and we contend weakening) performance of Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank. The most-recent (yet outdated) CRA performance evaluation stated inter alia that Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank "demonstrates no use of innovative or complex qualified investments and community development services" -- a bad sign for a bank with a wholesale designation, whose "performance under the CRA was limited to qualified investments and community development services." Id. In terms of weak performance beyond CRA, see, e.g., the San Diego Business Journal of December 2, 2002, "Former Peregrine Manager Admits to Bank Fraud," reporting that "[a]ccording to Cappel's plea, she arranged the sale of a $ 19.5 million invoice from KPMG Consulting LLC to Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank on or about June 29, 2001. Cappel sold the receivable to the bank as if it was valid when it really wasn't 'because Peregrine had no valid contract with KPMG Consulting LLC at the time for that amount under those terms,' the plea stated." Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank's lack of due diligence is another indictor of weak performance that should be inquired into in this proceeding.

   ICP continues to await the release of the 2002 HMDA data. As noted, in 2001, in the Denver MSA Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loan applications of African Americans a whopping 5.95 times more frequently than those of whites, substantially more disparate than other lenders in this market. Additionally in Denver, WFHM denied the refinance loan applications of African Americans 3.81 times more frequently than those of whites.

   In the Seattle WA MSA in 2001, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loan applications of African Americans 5.55 times more frequently than those of whites, substantially more disparate than other lenders in this market. Additionally in Seattle, WFHM denied the refinance loan applications of African Americans 2.44 times more frequently than those of whites.

   In light of the characterization of Wells as something of a "NAFTA bank," see supra, note that in 2001 in the Albuquerque, New Mexico MSA, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loans applications of Latinos 2.82 times more frequently than those of whites. In the Austin, Texas MSA, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loans applications of Latinos 3.50 times more frequently than those of whites (while also denying the applications of African Americans 2.71 times more frequently than whites). In the Houston MSA, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loans applications of Latinos 3.01 times more frequently than those of whites (while also denying the applications of African Americans 3.84 times more frequently than whites).

These racial and ethnic disparities, and Wells' targeted high-rate lending, militate for public hearings, for enforcement actions and referrals, and for the denial of Wells Fargo's expansion proposals.

  Communications regarding these proceedings, including Wells Fargo’s responses, any and all FRB communications with Wells Fargo, and the improperly withheld portions of the Applications, should be provided to the undersigned.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew R. Lee, Esq.
Executive Director
Inner City Public Interest Law Center
& Inner City Press/Community on the Move
1919 Washington Avenue
Bronx, New York 10457
Tel: 718-716-3540
Fax: 718-716-3161

   NOTE:  For or with more information, contact us. This will be updated; stay tuned...

Update of May 26, 2003: On May 20, Wells Fargo announced a proposal to buy Pacific Northwest Bancorp for $591 million. Then on May 22, Wells announced a smaller deal for Colorado's Two Rivers Corp., which owns the Bank of Grand Junction. It operates three branches around Grand Junction... Also on May 20, Wells announced that its general counsel Stanley Stroup will retire at the end of 2003. He "was very instrumental behind the scenes in helping break down (Great) Depression-era barriers among banking, brokerage and insurance industries," said Chairman and Chief Executive Dick Kovacevich in a press statement. "He also helped influence national legislation that created interstate banking." Well now. Jim Strother, a Wells Fargo deputy general counsel since June 2001, will replace him...

Update of May 5, 2003:  The California Department of Corporations on May 2 announced it has revoked Wells Fargo's state mortgage lending license, for violating California law. "If consumers were particularly savvy, they (should) see that Wells was advertising our license, and that they were obtaining the same protections from Wells as from any other licensed lender," said the Department's Andre Pineda. "The simple fact is, in the last couple of years, a consumer who thought that would be wrong." California wants Wells Fargo to issue refunds to overcharged borrowers.

Update of January 13, 2003: It has been too long, since we've reported on Wells Fargo in this space. The trigger of this report is the state of California's Jan. 10 accusation that Wells is a predatory pricer. We agree, and now report the following: at Wells Fargo Financial, the company's subprime lender, the lowest fixed interest rate being offered is 11.5% -- regardless of the credit score of the applicant. Ironically, even an applicant with a sub-600 FICO score can, through Wells Fargo Mortgage's "non-conforming" division, receive a rate between eight and nine percent. The morale of the story? If you approach Wells through the storefront office of Wells Fargo Financial, you will be overcharged in a predatory fashion. We've also learned that when Wells Fargo Financial employees leave the company, they are told that if at their next employer they refinance any Wells Fargo loans, they will be sued for $2,000 for each loan. Pretty, ain't it?

Update of October 28, 2002: on October 24, Wells Fargo announced a proposal to buy Minneapolis-based Towle Financial Services/Midwest Inc., a mortgage banking company that originates and services mortgages for life insurance firms, pension funds, real estate investment trusts and others. Towle holds a loan portfolio of $260 million, according to a Wells spokesperson. Wells already has a $30 billion servicing portfolio....

Update of August 5, 2002: on July 31, Wells Fargo announced a deal to acquire " private investment advisory firm" Nelson Capital Management; financial terms weren't disclosed.

Update of February 18, 2002: From the department of "better late that never," Inner City Press has just received a response from the Department of Justice to a FOIA request regarding the Federal Reserve Board enforcement (or non-enforcement) of antitrust laws upon Wells Fargo and its predecessor, Norwest. Among the documents received is correspondence in which Wells Fargo tries to justify having shifted deposits out of branches it had committed to divest. Wells claims that "if any procedural lapses did occur" they were "inadvertent and isolated." The Fed staffers who apparently agreed include Scott Alvarez, Dean Amel and Gordon Miller. Who knows -- maybe Wells' argument are not as ludicrous as they look. It's impossible to judge, since the most substantive portions of the letters are still redacted, and since the Fed itself never provided these letters to ICP or anyone else, despite outstanding FOIA requests. This may have to be revisited in a future proceeding.  Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.

Update of February 4, 2002:  Wells and woods: an SEC filing made public on January 28 disclosed that Wells Fargo has dropped its stake in Willamette Industries Inc. three percentage points to 9.4 percent. After a 14-month takeover battle, last week Willamette tentatively accepted a $6.1 billion acquisition offer from its larger rival Weyerhaeuser Co....

     For 2000-2002, click here.  This will be updated.   For or with more information, contact us.


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