Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news coming across the HousingWire weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues.
Polls tightened in the presidential election over the weekend to within two points and the debate Monday night between presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is set to crush viewing records.
The candidates will be asked questions on "achieving prosperity, securing America and America’s direction," which means that housing policy could theoretically be discussed, although I wouldn't create a drinking game around it. A surer bet would be attacks on "Wall Street banks" in general and one big bank in particular: Wells Fargo.
In fact, the drilling the bank’s president, John Stumpf, received at the hands of the Senate Banking Committee last week proved that disgust for big banking practices is one of the few things that Republicans and Democrats can agree on. Viewers got to witness a classic takedown from the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren, which was best described by Quartz as "whacking Stumpf like he was a well-dressed piñata."
Wells Fargo, which is already facing investigations from the Department of Justice over its cross-selling practices and subpoenas from attorneys from New York, San Francisco and North Carolina, faced a new challenge on Saturday, as two former employees filed a class action suit against the bank on behalf of all the employees who were penalized for not meeting aggressive sales quotas.
Trying to meet those quotas led some employees to open more than 2 million fake accounts for customers who did not know or consent to the accounts. The employees filing suit against Wells Fargo allege that their reluctance to commit fraud to reach sales goals led them to be penalized. From Reuters:
"Wells Fargo fired or demoted employees who failed to meet unrealistic quotas while at the same time providing promotions to employees who met these quotas by opening fraudulent accounts," the lawsuit filed on Thursday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles County said.
If last Tuesday’s hearing is any indication, an especially sore point for the bank will be the fact that low-level employees were punished, while their superiors were rewarded.
While executives at the top benefited from the activity, the blame landed on thousands of $12-per-hour employees who tried to meet the quotas and were often required to work off the clock to do so, the lawsuit said.
In last week's hearing, Carrie Tolstedt, the fomer head of Wells banking unit responsible for the fraud, was roundly criticized for being allowed to "retire" in the midst of the scandal with $124 million in compensation. Efforts to pressure the company to "clawback" her compensation grew louder in the last few days, and now attention is also focused on Stumpf's compensation. From the LA Times on Saturday:
A review of the bank’s regulatory filings shows that Stumpf could receive as many as 1.15 million additional shares of stock over the next three years, though the number could be lower depending on the bank’s financial performance.
Those shares, which have been granted but have not vested — meaning Stumpf does not own them yet — were worth $52.8 million at Friday’s closing price. That’s a substantial figure even for an executive whose annual compensation has totaled about $20 million for the last several years.
As home prices continue to rise — and rents with them — affordable housing is a moving target in the country's hottest housing markets. What a median income could afford six months ago in Boston, Seatlle or San Francisco might be out of reach today. But in one housing strapped city — Portland, Oregon — a coalition of health-care companies announced Friday that it is investing $21.5 million to build 328 new apartments for "the very poor, medically fragile, people with mental illness and substance use disorders and those displaced by gentrification."
From The Oregonian:
Ed Blackburn, executive director of Central City Concern, said the investment from the healthcare organizations represents "transformational recognition" that housing is crucial to improving health.
"This significant contribution is an excellent example of healthcare organizations coming together for the common good of our community," he said in a statement. "This housing will remain affordable for generations and it couldn't come at a better time."
In another red-hot market, Miami, former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning celebrated the grand opening on Friday of an affordable housing complex that his nonprofit, AM Affordable Housing, helped build. The $22.8 million complex features 84 residential units, but challenges the stereotypes of affordable housing, with amenities like a large club room, a media lounge, computer lab, gym and basketball court, naturally.
From the Miami Herald:
Indeed, public spaces are stylishly designed and furnished, the walls adorned with art. Courtside’s one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments are already fully leased, all of them reserved for residents making an annual income of no more than 60 percent of area median income, which ranges from no more than $29,820 for a one-person household to $49,440 for a six-person household. Courtside’s monthly rents range from $760 to $990.
The development includes four live-work units for families with home-based businesses. Families will begin moving in this weekend, and there’s a 400-person waiting list.