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Wells Fargo hit with $1 billion fine

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) announced a combined fine of $1 billion against Wells Fargo (WFC) on Friday.

The consent orders from the two agencies described how the bank unfairly disregarded its advertised process of locking-in interest rates for mortgages, as well as unfairly foisting insurance on customers taking out auto loans.

If a closing of a mortgage dragged on due to Wells Fargo and not the customer, the bank still charged customers to keep the rates locked — despite this being contrary to policy, the consent order notes.

In the case of the car loans, the bank forced unnecessary insurance on hundreds of thousands of borrowers who already had insurance taken out on their vehicles. When customers pointed this out, the bank often failed to fix the error and refund the payments.

Technically, the OCC levied a $500 million fine and the CFPB a $1 billion fine, but the CFPB counted the OCC’s $500 million as a piece of its fine, lowering the collected amounts to $500 million each.

Wells Fargo said the penalties reduce Q1 income by $800 million, or $0.16 cents per share, to $4.7 billion.

FILE – This Aug. 11, 2017, file photo shows a sign at a Wells Fargo bank location in Philadelphia. The New York Times and other news outlets are reporting Thursday, April 19, 2018, that federal regulators plan to fine Wells Fargo as much as $1 billion as early as Friday for abuses tied to its auto lending and mortgage businesses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

“I am especially pleased that we were able to work closely and effectively with our colleagues at the OCC, and I appreciate the key role they played in the negotiations,” said acting CFPB director Mick Mulvaney in a press release. “As to the terms of the settlement: we have said all along that we will enforce the law. That is what we did here.”

Mulvaney, an appointee by President Trump, has been said to take a softer, industry-friendly line on enforcement, but has implemented the largest fine in the bureau’s short history. (It was created in 2010 by the Dodd-Frank Act.) This is his first enforcement as director.

In a press release, Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan noted the work still to come for the bank, but that “these orders affirm that we share the same priorities with our regulators and that we are committed to working with them as we deliver our commitments with focus, accountability, and transparency. Our customers deserve only the best from Wells Fargo, and we are committed to delivering that.”

According to the Bureau, the bank will “remediate harmed consumers” and address the risk and compliance issues that precipitated the unfair practices.

The OCC fine will go into the Treasury, and the CFPB’s fines go to its Civil Penalty Fund. This fund compensates victims who have not been paid by the offending companies.

The embattled bank still has an investigation ongoing into practices by its wealth management division.