WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer banking giant Wells Fargo has agreed to pay $3.7 billion to settle a long list of charges that hurt consumers by charging illegal fees and interest on auto and mortgage loans, as well as improperly applied overdraft fees. against checking and savings accounts. .
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered Wells on Tuesday to refund $2 billion to consumers and enacted a $1.7 billion fine against the bank. It is the largest fine to date against any bank by the CFPB and the largest ever against Wells, who has spent years trying to rehabilitate himself after a series of scandals involving his sales practices.
The bureau says the bank’s misbehavior affected more than 16 million customers. In addition to improperly charging fees and interest to its auto loan customers, in some cases the bank improperly repossessed borrowers’ vehicles. The bank also improperly denied thousands of homeowners’ home loan modifications.
“Wells Fargo’s rinse and repeat cycle of breaking the law has harmed millions of American families,” Rohit Chopra, director of the CFPB, said in a statement.
Wells Fargo has been repeatedly penalized by US regulators for violations of consumer protection law since 2016, when Wells employees were found to have illegally opened millions of accounts to meet unrealistic sales targets. Since then, Wells executives have repeatedly said the bank is cleaning up its act, only to find that the bank is violating other parts of consumer protection law, including in its auto and home loan businesses.
In 2018, Wells paid a $1 billion fine to cover widespread violations of consumer law. That, at the time, was the largest fine to date against a bank for consumer law violations.
The bank had previously signaled to investors that it expected additional fines and penalties from regulators. The bank set aside $2 billion in the third quarter to cover potential regulatory issues.
Wells remains under a Federal Reserve order prohibiting him from growing any further until the Fed deems his corporate culture problems are resolved. That order, originally enacted in 2018, was expected to last only a year or two.
In a statement, CEO Charles Scharf said the agreement with the CFPB is part of the effort to “transform operating practices at Wells Fargo and move past these issues.”