Monday, March 4, 2024
HomeloansWells Fargo mortgage lenders probed over racial discrimination

Wells Fargo mortgage lenders probed over racial discrimination

Wells Fargo was snared in an industrywide probe into mortgage bankers’ use of loan discounts last year, CNBC has learned.
The discounts, known as pricing exceptions, are used by mortgage personnel to help secure deals in competitive markets. At Wells Fargo, for instance, bankers could request pricing exceptions that typically lowered a customer’s APR by between 25 abd 75 basis points.
The practice, used for decades across the home loan industry, has triggered regulators’ interest in recent years over possible violations of U.S. fair lending laws. Black and female borrowers got fewer pricing exceptions than other customers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has found.
“As long as pricing exceptions exist, pricing disparities exist,” said Ken Perry, founder of a Washington-based compliance firm for the mortgage industry. “They’re the easiest way to discriminate against a client.”
Wells Fargo received an official notice from the CFPB called an MRA, or Matter Requiring Attention, on problems with its discounts, said people with knowledge of the situation. It’s unclear if regulators accused the bank of discrimination or sloppy oversight. The bank’s internal investigation on the matter extended into late this year, said the people.
Wells Fargo, until recently the biggest player in U.S. mortgages, has repeatedly felt regulators’ wrath over missteps involving home loans. In 2012, it paid more than $184 million to settle federal claims that it charged minorities higher fees and unjustly put them into subprime loans. It was fined $250 million in 2021 for failing to address problems in its mortgage business, and more recently paid $3.7 billion for consumer abuses on products including home loans.
The behind-the-scenes actions by regulators at Wells Fargo, which hadn’t been reported before, happened in the months before the company announced it was reining in its mortgage business. One reason for that move was the heightened scrutiny on lenders since the 2008 financial crisis.
Wells Fargo later hired law firm Winston & Strawn to grill mortgage bankers whose sales included high levels of the discounts, said the people, who declined to be identified speaking about confidential matters.

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