Articles Posted in Wells Fargo

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering Wells Fargo & Co.’s (WFC) wealth management unit to pay $3.5M for alleged anti-money laundering reporting violations. Wells Fargo Advisors agreed to pay the penalty. It is settling the charges but without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

According to the SEC, starting in early 2012, new bank managers started pressing compliance officials to cease in their submission of suspicious activity reports. The failure to file these SARs reports, or delay them, reportedly occurred 50 times in a little over a year and involved accounts for international customers who were previously named in such reports.

Federal law mandates that broker-dealers notify the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about any transactions of at least $5K that they believe may involve illegal activity. The regulator blames a “new senior manager” that was hired in the brokerage firm’s compliance group and placed in charge of the anti-money laundering program.

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In Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla ruled that a few dozen funds may pursue their mortgage-backed securities fraud lawsuits against Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) According to Reuters, five lawsuits are involved and plaintiffs include funds from Prudential Financial Inc.(PRU), BlackRock Inc. (BLK), TIAA-CREF, and Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMICO) Judge Failla also said that the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) could proceed with its MBS fraud claims against the San Francisco-based bank, which it filed on behalf of five credit unions that failed after they bought $2.4B in residential mortgage-backed securities.

The funds are seeking to hold Wells Fargo liable for breach of contract and conflict of interest involving over four dozen trusts, breach of due care, and breach of fiduciary duty. Failla, however, did not allow claims contending violation of a NY law related to mortgage trusts, as well as claims of general negligence, to proceed.

The investors contend that the bank took “virtually no action” to make sure that lenders either bought back the faulty securities or fixed the loans that were backing the securities once they knew that the loans were poorly underwritten or had defaulted. They accused Wells Fargo of failing to act despite being aware of these problems.

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$165M Class Action Settlement Reached in MBS Fraud Case Involving NovaStar Securities
Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and Deutsche Bank AG (DB) have reached a $165M with investors in their class action mortgage-backed securities case involving underwriting for NovaStar Mortgage Inc., a former subprime lender. The lead plaintiff in the case is the New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund.

NovaStar, which filed for bankruptcy last year, had specialized in low quality residential mortgages. Many of these were bundled into risky securities that were issued prior to the 2008 financial crisis. The class action settlement resolves claims contending that the offering documents put together by the banks misled investors into thinking that the loans underlying about $7.55B of NovaStar MBSs were safe and had been underwritten properly.

A district court judge must still approve the settlement. Meantime, despite the resolution, the banks continue to deny wrongdoing.
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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering 12 firms to pay a collective total of $14.4M in fines over deficiencies involving the way they preserved customer and brokerage firm records. The firms who are subject to these sanctions include:

· RBS Securities (RBS) for $2M
· LPL Financial (LPLA) for $750K
· Wells Fargo Prime Services and Wells Fargo Securities (WFC) for a collective $4M fine
· Wells Fargo Advisors, First Clearing LLC, and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network for a joint fine of $1.5M
· RBS Capital Markets Arbitrage and RBC Capital Markets for $3.5M
· SunTrust Robinson Humphrey for $1.5M
· PNC Capital Markets for $500K

Under FINRA rules and federal securities laws, electronic records that are business-related have to be maintained in WORM format so that they cannot be modified. According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission, this is necessary to protect investors because monitoring compliance by firms occurs primarily through their records and books.

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Wells Fargo Fined $1M Over Supervision of Consolidated Client Reports

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that Wells Fargo (WFC)  must pay a $1M fine for not having reasonable supervisory systems in place to oversee the generation of consolidated reports for clients. The broker-dealers that were specifically cited were Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network (WFAFN) and Wells Fargo Advisors (WFA), also referred to as Wells Fargo Clearing Services.They agreed to settle but did not admit or deny the settlement’s findings.

FINRA’s rules mandate that consolidated reports, which are documents that include information about a customer’s financial holdings, even if they are held in different places, must be accurate, clear, and not misleading.  According to the regulator, between 6/2009 and 6/2015, the brokerage firms did not enforce supervisory systems for the use of consolidated reports that registered representatives generated via a specific application. During the relevant period, Wells Fargo advisers used the application to create over five million company reports.

In New York, US District Judge Deborah A. Batts has certified a class of investors to go ahead with fraud claims that they’ve brought against Wells Fargo (WFC), RBS Securities (RBS), and Deutsche Bank (DB). The banks underwrote $7.7B of NovaStar mortgage-backed securities. The lead plaintiff in the MBS fraud case is the New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund. Wells Fargo Advisors LLC was previously Wachovia Capital Markets.

The plaintiffs contend that the defendant banks lied in the securities’ offering documents. Judge Batts held that the fundamental question at issue is whether the bank did, in fact, make the allegedly misleading or materially false statements.

NovaStar issued  six residential mortgage backed-securities that the banks underwrote in 2006. These RMBS collectively held over $7.7B in assets. By mid-2009,  in the wake of the housing collapse, over half the mortgages backing the securities had defaulted. Investors sustained major losses.

The New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund, which sued not just the banks in 2008 but also subprime lender NovaStar and credit rating agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, had invested $100K in one of the securities. The credit raters are no longer defendants in the case as the claims against them from this mortgage-backed securities case were dismissed in 2011. Because NovaStar’s successor has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the case against the subprime lender has been stayed.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Wells Fargo (WFC) violated whistleblower protections, in the wake of allegations of aggressive and illegal sales tactics, and misled investors over these allegations.  The probe comes after Senators Jeff Merkeley (D-Ore), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) sent the Commission a letter asking the regulator to examine whether the bank misled investigators over cross-selling claims.

In the letter, the US senators asked the SEC to look into whether Wells Fargo violated  Sarbanes-Oxley’s internal control provisions and whistleblower protection laws by firing employees who attempted to report alleged misconduct involving fake accounts. The three senators also asked the Commission to look at whether the bank failed to properly disclose bogus accounts while marketing high figures related to the creation of accounts.

Wells Fargo recently came under fire for setting up some two million bogus accounts. It settled the case, which was brought by California prosecutors and federal regulators—including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau— for $185M in penalties and $5M in customer restitution. Questions have since arisen over why the bank did not notify investors about these cross-selling allegations until it settled with regulators, even though Ex-CEO John Stumpf admitted that he knew about the problems going as far back as 2013.

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A plaintiff who is a participant in Wells Fargo’s 401(K) plan is suing the bank. The individual claims that the company’s cross-selling scandal has caused its stock price to drop significantly and this has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to the retirement plan.
It was just last month that regulators imposed a $185M fine on Wells Fargo for setting up 2.1 million credit card accounts and unauthorized deposits for banking customers so as to satisfy sales quotas. Some employees allegedly set up debit cards for customers without their knowledge, even assigning them PIN numbers.
Although Wells Fargo is settling with the Los Angeles City Attorney, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it is not denying or admitting to the allegations. 

A FINRA arbitration panel has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors LLC (WFC) to pay UBS Financial Services Inc. $1.1M to resolve a claim involving financial adviser David Kinnear who went to work for the Wells Fargo & Co. brokerage arm after leaving the UBS Group AG (UBS) unit. UBS claims that Kinnear stole thousands of client and business records, as well as proprietary information, after resigning from the firm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to a source, Kinnear downloaded the data and distributed it to clients. UBS contends that the compensation Kinnear received at Wells Fargo was related to his ability to successfully bring UBS clients with him. UBS also claims that Kinnear owes it promissory notes.

Wells Fargo denies UBS’s allegations. It submitted a counterclaim accusing the firm of unfair completion, including preventing clients from moving from UBS to Wells Forgo.

Under the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, brokers are only allowed to bring the names and contact information of clients that they serviced while having worked at a firm when moving to another brokerage firm.

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Seven big banks have resolved a U.S. lawsuit accusing them of rigging ISDAFix rates, which is the benchmark for appraising interest rate derivatives, structured debt securities, and commercial real estate mortgages, for $324M. The banks that have reached a settlement are:

· Barclays PLS (BCS) for $30M (In 2015, Barclays paid $115M to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission to resolve charges of ISDAfix rigging.)
· Bank of America Corp. (BAC) for $50M
· Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) for $50M
· Citigroup Inc. (C) for $42M
· JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) for $52M
· Deutsche Bank AG (DB) for $50M
· Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (RBS) for $50M

The deal must be approved by a Manhattan federal court. The defendants had sought to have the case dismissed, but US District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan refused their request. stating that the case raised “plausible allegations” that the defendants were involved in a conspiracy together.

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