In addition to all the issues Wells Fargo faced over the last year, the bank said back in October that it planned to refund more than 100,000 borrowers who were improperly charged for rate lock extensions from Sept. 16, 2013, through Feb. 28, 2017.
As it turns out, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was also looking into the issue and apparently planned to fine the bank for the improper rate lock fees, until Mick Mulvaney took over as acting director – or so it appeared.
Reuters reported Thursday that Mulvaney, who President Donald Trump installed as acting director of the CFPB after Richard Cordray stepped down, was considering whether to enforce a fine against Wells Fargo that Cordray signed off on before he stepped down.
The new acting head of the U.S. consumer finance watchdog is reviewing whether Wells Fargo & Co should pay tens of millions of dollars over alleged mortgage lending abuse, according to three sources familiar with the dispute.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had been investigating the mortgage issue since early this year, said one current and two former officials. The agency accepted an internal review from Wells Fargo and set settlement terms in early November, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak about internal discussions.
Richard Cordray, the former CFPB director who initiated the Wells Fargo action, approved the terms of a possible settlement before stepping down, said the sources.
According to the article, the rate lock fine would not be as substantial as the $100 million levied against Wells Fargo by the CFPB over the bank’s massive fake account scandal, but could be “tens of millions of dollars.”
The article stated that the Wells Fargo is among the regulatory matters that Mulvaney is currently reviewing and could choose not to move forward with.
But, according to Trump himself, any pending penalties against Wells Fargo will be enforced. Trump also warned there could be more sanctions against the bank.
Trump made the proclamation in a tweet posted Friday morning, seemingly claiming that the Reuters report was incorrect. Although, it should be noted that the Reuters report did not claim that Mulvaney was considering dropping the fine altogether; just that it was one of the issues that Mulvaney was currently reviewing.
“Fines and penalties against Wells Fargo Bank for their bad acts against their customers and others will not be dropped, as has incorrectly been reported, but will be pursued and, if anything, substantially increased,” Trump wrote. “I will cut Regs but make penalties severe when caught cheating!”
Fines and penalties against Wells Fargo Bank for their bad acts against their customers and others will not be dropped, as has incorrectly been reported, but will be pursued and, if anything, substantially increased. I will cut Regs but make penalties severe when caught cheating!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2017
Trump did not specifically mention the Reuters report or the nature of the “bad acts” that Wells Fargo supposedly committed, but did suggest that the penalties could be increased.
When Wells Fargo first disclosed that it planned to refund the rate lock fees, it said that in total, approximately $98 million in rate lock extension fees were assessed to about 110,000 borrowers during the period in question.
But, the company said at the time that it believes a substantial number of those fees were appropriately charged under its policy.
As a result, the amount ultimately refunded likely will be lower than $98 million, as not all of the fees assessed were actually paid and some fees already have been refunded, but that figure does not account for the pending CFPB fine.
For added explanation, a rate lock means that a borrower’s interest rate won’t change between the offer and closing, as long as they close within the specified time frame and there are no changes to their application.
Following an internal review, Wells Fargo said in October that a rate lock extension policy implemented in September 2013 was, at times, not consistently applied, resulting in some borrowers being charged fees for delays that were the bank’s fault.
Wells Fargo said that on March 1, 2017, it changed the mortgage rate lock extension process to ensure more consistency by establishing a centralized review team that reviews all rate lock extension requests for consistent application of policy.
Despite that change, the bank still faces a fine from the CFPB. Or maybe it faced a fine, but doesn’t anymore? Time will tell.