Banking & Finance

Wells Fargo Settles Federal Claims for $1 Billion

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced Friday morning that it had settled federal claims against Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) related to risk management and improper charges to consumers for $1 billion. A $500 million payment the bank already has made to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is being applied to the $1 billion penalty.

The CFPB’s action was widely expected, so this morning’s announcement was no big surprise. That said, some investors might be thinking this is now getting very close to the end of the negativity about its past business practices.

In its own announcement, Wells Fargo said that it will adjust its first-quarter 2018 results with an additional accrual of $800 million (not tax deductible), reducing its net income by the same amount and by $0.16 per share to $0.96.

In addition to the financial penalty, the bank is also required to issue detailed plans to strengthen its compliance and risk management and to its manner of remediating customers. CEO Timothy Sloan said:

For more than a year and a half, we have made progress on strengthening operational processes, internal controls, compliance and oversight, and delivering on our promise to review all of our practices and make things right for our customers. While we have more work to do, 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.

A CFPB acting director, Mike Mulvaney, said:

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. 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’s well-documented resistance to what he calls overregulation was on full display earlier this month when he told Congress, “The bureau is far too powerful, and with precious little oversight of its activities.” He has recommended funding the CFPB through Congress rather than the current method of funding through the Federal Reserve, which was intended to insulate the agency from political machinations.

Mulvaney also recommends giving the president the power to remove the director for any or no reason. Under existing law, the president can only remove the director for a specific and justifiable cause.

Because the announced settlement in the Wells Fargo case puts a limit on the hit to the bank’s bottom line, it has pushed the stock price up 2% to $52.59, in a 52-week range of $49.27 to $66.31. The 12-month consensus price target is $63.15.

UPDATE, 1:00 PM EST: Wells Fargo shares were last seen trading up 2% at $52.58 late on Friday.