For years we have wondered why Wells Fargo, America’s largest mortgage lender, is also Warren Buffett’s favorite bank. Now we know why.
On Thursday, Wells Fargo was fined $185 million, (including a $100 million penalty from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the largest penalty the agency has ever issued) for engaging in pervasive fraud over the years which included opening credit cards secretly without a customer’s consent, creating fake email accounts to sign up customers for online banking services, and forcing customers to accumulate late fees on accounts they never even knew they had. Regulators said such illegal sales practices had been going on since at least 2011.
In all, Wells opened 1.5 million bank accounts and “applied” for 565,000 credit cards that were not authorized by their customers.
Goldman Sachs has finally admitted to committing fraud. Specifically, Goldman Sachs reached a settlement yesterday with the Department of Justice, in which it admitted fraud:
The settlement includes a statement of facts to which Goldman has agreed. That statement of facts describes how Goldman made false and misleading representations to prospective investors about the characteristics of the loans it securitized and the ways in which Goldman would protect investors in its RMBS from harm (the quotes in the following paragraphs are from that agreed-upon statement of facts, unless otherwise noted):
Nearly a decade since the housing bubble burst the dirty skeletons still emerge from the closet, and still nobody goes to jail.
In the latest example of how criminal Wall Street behavior leads to zero prison time and just more slaps on the wrist, overnight Warren Buffett’s favorite bank, Wells Fargo, admitted to “deceiving” the U.S. government into insuring thousands of risky mortgages. Its “punishment” – a $1.2 billion settlement of a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit, the highest ever levied in a housing-related matter.
General Electric Co (GE.N) took a big step on Tuesday in its plan to unload most of its financing operations, saying it has agreed to sell commercial lending and leasing businesses worth more than $30 billion to Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N).
The U.S. conglomerate has now inked $126 billion in transactions — more than half of its overall target — since announcing in April it would seek to reduce its GE Capital financing business to less than 10 percent of earnings as it focuses more on industrial manufacturing. GE Capital accounted for 42 percent of the company’s profit in 2014.
– WELLS FARGO BANS AMERICAN FLAGS INSIDE THEIR BRANCHES (Political Ears, March 28, 2014):
A Wells Fargo spokesman says they received multiple complaints from people in other states about U.S. flags on display in their banks so they have ordered flags removed at all branches across America.
– Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever Before (Economic Collapse, Sep 20, 2013):
The too big to fail banks are now much, much larger than they were the last time they caused so much trouble. The six largest banks in the United States have gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years. Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared from the banking industry during that time. What this means is that the health of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley is more critical to the U.S. economy than ever before. If they were “too big to fail” back in 2008, then now they must be “too colossal to collapse”. Without these banks, we do not have an economy. The six largest banks control 67 percent of all U.S. banking assets, and Bank of America accounted for about a third of all business loans by itself last year. Our entire economy is based on credit, and these giant banks are at the very core of our system of credit. If these banks were to collapse, a brutal economic depression would be guaranteed. Unfortunately, as you will see later in this article, these banks did not learn anything from 2008 and are being exceedingly reckless. They are counting on the rest of us bailing them out if something goes wrong, but that might not happen next time around.
– Wall Street Banks Extract Enormous Fees From The Paychecks Of Millions Of American Workers (Economic Collapse, July 2, 2013):
Would you be angry if you had to pay a big Wall Street bank a fee before you could get the money that you worked so hard to earn? Unfortunately, that is exactly the situation that millions of American workers find themselves in today. An increasing number of U.S. companies are paying their workers using payroll cards that are issued by large financial institutions. Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Walgreens and Taco Bell are just some of the well known employers that are doing this. Today, there are 4.6 million active payroll cards in the United States, and some of the largest banks in the country are issuing them. The list includes JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citigroup. The big problem with these cards is that there is often a fee for just about everything that you do with them. Do you want to use an ATM machine? You must pay a fee. Do you want to check your balance? You must pay a fee. Do you want a paper statement? You must pay a fee. Did you lose your card? You must pay a big fee. Has your card been inactive for a while? You must pay a huge fee. The big Wall Street banks are systematically extracting enormous fees from the working poor, and someone needs to do something to stop this.
What can you say?
– Homes See Biggest Price Gain in Years, Propelling Stocks (New York Times, May 28, 2013):
Americans are in a buying mood, thanks largely to the housing recovery.
The latest sign emerged Tuesday as the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller home price index posted the biggest gains in seven years. Housing prices rose in every one of the 20 cities tracked, continuing a trend that began three months ago. Similar strength has appeared in new and existing home sales and in building permits, as rising home prices are encouraging construction firms to accelerate building and hiring.
The broad-based housing improvements appear to be buoying consumer confidence and spending, countering fears earlier this year that many consumers would pull back in response to government austerity measures.
– Keeping The ‘Recovery’ Dream Alive; 3 Big Banks Halt Foreclosures In May (ZeroHedge, May 28, 2013):
What is the only thing better than Foreclosure Stuffing to provide an artificial supply-side subsidy to the housing market? How about completely clogging the foreclosure pipeline, by halting all foreclosure sales, which is just what the three TBTF megabanks: Wells Fargo, JPMorgan and Citi have done in recent weeks. Under the guise of ‘ensuring late-stage foreclosure procedures were in accordance with guidelines’, the LA Times reports that these three banks paused sales on May 6th and all but halted foreclosures. Perfectly organic housing recovery – as we noted earlier… and guess what states the greatest number of ‘halts’ are in from these banks – California, Nevada, Arizona – exactly where the surges in price have occurred.
Sales of homes in foreclosure by Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. ground nearly to a halt after regulators revised their orders on treatment of troubled borrowers during the 60 days before they lose their homes.
– America’s TBTF Bank Subsidy From Taxpayers: $83 Billion Per Year (ZeroHedge, Feb 20, 2013):
Day after day, whenever anyone challenges the TBTF banks’ scale, they are slammed down with a mutually assured destruction message that limitations would impair profitability and weaken the country’s position in global finance. So what if you were to discover, based on Bloomberg’s calculations, that the largest banks aren’t really profitable at all? What if the billions of dollars they allegedly earn for their shareholders were almost entirely a gift from U.S. taxpayers? The stunning truth is that the top-five banks account for $64 billion of an implicit subsidy based on the ludicrous (but entirely real) logic that: The banks that are potentially the most dangerous can borrow at lower rates, because creditors perceive them as too big to fail. Perhaps this realization will increase shareholder demands – or even political furore? The market discipline might not please executives, but it would certainly be an improvement over paying banks to put us in danger.
– Why Should Taxpayers Give Big Banks $83 Billion a Year? (Bloomberg, Feb 20, 2013):
On television, in interviews and in meetings with investors, executives of the biggest U.S. banks — notably JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon — make the case that size is a competitive advantage. It helps them lower costs and vie for customers on an international scale. Limiting it, they warn, would impair profitability and weaken the country’s position in global finance.
So what if we told you that, by our calculations, the largest U.S. banks aren’t really profitable at all? What if the billions of dollars they allegedly earn for their shareholders were almost entirely a gift from U.S. taxpayers?