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Wells Fargo repays $5.4 million for repossessing service members' cars

By Jonathan Stempel
FILE PHOTO: A Wells Fargo branch is seen in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, U.S. February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A Wells Fargo branch is seen in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, U.S. February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co <WFC.N> has repaid another $5.4 million to about 450 military service members whose vehicles it repossessed illegally, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

The third-largest U.S. bank has now repaid about $10.2 million to roughly 860 service members and their co-borrowers for improper repossessions, under a settlement announced in September 2016.

Other violations covered by that settlement were discovered more recently, leading to the latest payout, the Justice Department said.

Wells Fargo was also fined $20 million in September 2016 by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in a related case.

The OCC had cited the San Francisco-based lender for violations of the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act from 2006 to 2016.

It said the violations included exceeding a 6-percent interest rate cap on loans, failing to accurately disclose service members' active duty status to courts, and failing to obtain court orders before conducting repossessions.

In a statement, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Natalie Brown said the $5.4 million payout came "as part of our commitment to a comprehensive, ongoing account review process and as part of our consent order work."

Wells Fargo has for more than a year been addressing fallout from a variety of practices, including its creation of potentially millions of unauthorized customer accounts.

In August, it agreed to pay the U.S. government $108 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit accusing it of charging military veterans hidden fees to refinance mortgages, and concealing those fees when seeking federal loan guarantees.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler)