New Orleans I may still be under a gag order on ACORN’s final settlement with Wells Fargo, but who knows at this point and who would care now. Wells Fargo was always about hard ball and hard bargaining, but when we moved after than in 2004 after settling first with Ameriquest and then Household Finance on predatory lending practices, they were the next obvious target. We had them to rights, rather to wrongs, but rather than accept the Ameriquest and Household terms for settlements they stonewalled. The ACORN National Convention in Los Angeles that year made Wells Fargo its central target as 1500 people passed the Disney Concert Hall and then swarmed outside their building, handing the executives a copy of the suit our lawyers filed that day.
We settled eventually on the best terms we could get. They implemented best practices and supposedly made other modifications. The suit had been narrowed from the national scale of Household down to just California plaintiffs.
I read with some bittersweet pleasure at justice delayed being still better than justice denied that the Federal Reserve had settled with Wells Fargo this week for $85 million to compensate between 3700 and 10000 victims of virtually the same predatory practices that ACORN had exposed.
The Fed hit them for abuses that continued after our settlement from 2004 to 2008. Much of it sounded the same though. Documents had been faked with false income numbers. Borrowers had been steered into unaffordable loans. The CEO now, John Stumpt, released a statement swearing it was a “small group” of employees who made this giant mess, and furthermore they had already paid off 600 customers. Hmmm? If that’s supposed to be an apology, then in typical Wells Fargo fashion, it sure doesn’t sound like one to me.
The Federal Reserve slept through the subprime crisis, and this latest fine, even though the largest, does not prove differently.
Judging from the tearless, limp finger pointing by Stumpt at others, it is clear that even as they pay the fine, nothing is changing in the sanctimonious and callow corporate culture at Wells Fargo.
If you want a safe bet, make one that they will continue to do the same thing over and over again, until caught and forced into a situation where they really have to change, rather than copping a plea where they admit nothing and deny everything as always.