Baron & Budd P.C. launched an investigation to determine whether the mortgage lending arm of Wells Fargo (WFC) is inappropriately charging excessive fees on delinquent mortgage holders. Dallas-based Baron & Budd said it wants to know if the bank added extra fees to the accounts of clients who are either in default or more than 20 days past due on their mortgages. The firm alleges the lender charged “inappropriate fees” even if the customer gets current on payments. Wells Fargo responded to the allegations, saying, “If customers have questions about their mortgage accounts, we’d like for them to call 866-234-8271 for assistance and good information.” “These fees are typically added to a homeowner’s loan balance or otherwise charged to them without the homeowner’s knowledge or consent,” according to Baron & Budd. “Sadly, this is yet another deceptive practice that banks have developed to make money from consumers,” said Roland Tellis, head of the firm’s consumer fraud litigation team. “These banks are taking advantage of homeowners when they’re down, and most homeowners don’t even know that this is happening.” The investigation is part of an ongoing trend where consumers and consumer groups are accusing banks of hiding fees. A pending whistle-blower lawsuit accuses 13 banks, including Wells Fargo, with charging veterans hidden fees on mortgage refinancing transactions. That suit was filed in 2006, but the court unsealed it recently. Earlier this year, Baron & Budd partook in negotiations between Bank of America (BAC) and its customers regarding excessive overdraft fees, which resulted in a $410 million settlement, the firm said. Write to Kerri Panchuk.

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