Banking & Finance

Federal Regulator Considers Even More Action Against Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) is not off the hook yet, as a federal regulator says that it is considering a formal enforcement action in regards to the bank’s dealings in auto-insurance and mortgage operations.

In a letter sent earlier this month by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the agency said that Wells Fargo had willingly harmed customers in these two business segments. It further went on to say that Wells Fargo had repeatedly failed to correct other issues stemming from an even broader range of its business segments.

While Wells Fargo has yet to comment on this letter in particular, the bank has been undergoing some systematic changes since John Stumpf stepped down as CEO.

This past summer, Wells Fargo admitted that for years it had forced nearly 600,000 customers who financed their car purchases with Wells Fargo to pay for collision coverage they didn’t need. The bank also said about 20,000 customers had their cars wrongly repossessed. Those customers failed to pay the improper insurance charges.

In order to make amends, the bank said that it would provide cash reimbursements of roughly $100 million to customers and make $30 million in account adjustments, in relation to these wrongful insurance dealings.

This isn’t the first time that Wells Fargo has been under the microscope. Previously this megabank was under fire from Washington for its sales tactics and opening fake accounts.

Now according to the Wall Street Journal:

The enforcement action being weighed against Wells Fargo is a cease-and-desist order, the people familiar with the matter said. Also known as a consent order, it is among an array of formal enforcement proceedings the OCC can take when it determines that deficiencies in a bank’s operations are severe, uncorrected, unsafe or unsound. The issuance of a consent order typically includes steps the bank’s board or management must take to correct the deficiencies and a time period for doing so.

The OCC’s letter underscores the continuing challenges faced by Wells Fargo as it seeks to emerge from a widespread scandal that came to a head last year. It involved disclosures that Wells Fargo had created as many as 3.5 million accounts using fictitious or unauthorized customer information. Any new sanction by regulators could further dent the bank’s reputation and could provide ammunition for private lawsuits against the company.

Shares of Wells Fargo were last seen up about 1.8% on the day at $56.55, with a consensus analyst price target of $57.66 and a 52-week range of $49.27 to $59.99.