Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The Federal Reserve Board issued a consent cease and desist order and assessed an $85 million civil money penalty against Wells Fargo & Company, a registered bank holding company, and Wells Fargo Financial, Inc. The order addresses allegations that Wells Fargo Financial employees steered potential prime borrowers into more costly subprime loans and separately falsified income information in mortgage applications. In addition to the civil money penalty, the order requires that Wells Fargo compensate affected borrowers.
The $85 million civil money penalty is the largest the Board has assessed in a consumer-protection enforcement action and is the first formal enforcement action taken by a federal bank regulatory agency to address alleged steering of borrowers into high-cost, subprime loans.
The order requires Wells Fargo to compensate borrowers affected by these practices. To identify prime-eligible borrowers with cash-out refinancing loans who were subject to improper steering, Wells Fargo is required to reevaluate the qualifications of all borrowers who took out a subprime, cash-out refinancing loan between January 2006 and June 2008 to account for certain specific steering techniques. To identify Wells Fargo Financial borrowers whose income information was falsified without their knowledge, Wells Fargo is required to set up a procedure for potentially affected borrowers to show that their actual income at the time did not qualify them for the loans they were granted. Wells Fargo is required to provide notice of this procedure to all borrowers who obtained cash-out refinancing loans between January 2004 and June 2008 at a Wells Fargo Financial office where there is evidence that sales personnel at that office altered or falsified borrowers' income information