Articles Posted in Wells Fargo

California Treasurer John Chiang announced this week that the state has decided to extend the sanctions it imposed against Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) for one more year. The bank is barred from doing business with California in the wake of the sales practice scandal involving the set up of at least two million unauthorized credit card and bank accounts. Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185M to regulators to resolve related charges.

As the country’s largest municipal debt issuer, California oversees a $75B investment portfolio. Its sanctions include suspending the state’s investments in Wells Fargo Securities, barring the bank from being used as a brokerage firm to buy investments, and prohibiting it from serving as bond underwriter whenever Chiang is authorized to appoint said underwriter.

When explaining why he sought to extend the state’s sanctions, Chiang pointed to recent disclosures, including that Wells Fargo overcharged veterans in a federal mortgage-refinancing program and, in another program, made loan borrowers pay for unnecessary insurance. The state treasurer sent a letter to Wells Fargo’s board and its Chief Executive Tim Sloan noting that a number of demands have to be fulfilled before he will lift the sanctions.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said that Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network and Wells Fargo Clearing Services LLC must pay over $3.4M in restitution to customers who were impacted by unsuitable recommendations involving exchange-traded products and the supervisory failures involved. By settling, Wells Fargo (WFC) is not denying or admitting to the regulator’s charges.

According to FINRA, between 7/1/200 and 5/1/2012, there were registered representatives at Wells Fargo (WFC) who recommended these volatility-linked ETPs without fully comprehending the investments’ features and risks. The self-regulatory organization also found that the broker-dealer did not put into place a supervisory system that was reasonable enough to properly supervise the ETP sales during the period at issue.

The regulator said that the brokers did not have reasonable grounds for recommending these ETPs to customers whose risk profiles and investment goals were considered moderate or conservative. The representatives are accused of making inappropriate recommendations about when to leave these positions in a “timely manner.”

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Wells Fargo Securities (WFC) to pay a $3.25M fine for inaccuracies and mistakes in its reporting for over-the-counter trades that took place between January 2008 and March 2017. The self-regulatory organization also has censured the firm.

According to FINRA, in 2008, Wells Fargo (WFC) reviewed its OTC options trading reporting procedures. It went on to set up systems for reporting these types of trades. However, the firm’s reporting system was never fully established.

Wells Fargo Securities did not actually start reporting OTC options trades until after the firm achieved self-clearing status in 2014. Even then, claims the SRO, Wells Fargo either did not report or was inaccurate when reporting quite a number of these trades.

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Former Wells Fargo and LPL Financial Broker Receives 41-Month Prison Term for Elder Financial Fraud
Robert N. Tricarico, an ex-broker for both Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) and LPL Financial (LPLA), will serve 41 months behind bars and pay restitution of over $1.2M after he pleaded guilty to elder financial fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought a civil case against Tricarico, has barred him from the securities industry.

Court documents note that from 1/2010 to 6/2013, Tricarico was the financial adviser for a sick and elderly investor. He misappropriated over $1.1M from her by writing a number of checks to himself without the client’s consent, misappropriated checks written to her, liquidated her coin collection, and used her funds for his own expenses.

He has also admitted to bilking two other victims of $20K when he falsely represented that their money would go toward a business venture. He kept their money for himself.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel ruled that Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) must pay investor Anthony J. Pryor $357K related to purportedly unsuitable housing and energy investments. In his securities fraud claim, Pryor alleged negligent misrepresentation, negligent supervision, breach of fiduciary, and other causes. Wells Fargo denies Pryor’s allegations.

His advisor, Jeff Wilson, who was not named as a party in the securities case, has three customer disputes on his BrokerCheck record. One of the other claims that was settled for $250K also allegedly involving unsuitable investments.

Unsuitable Investments
Not every investment is suitable for every investor. Some investments may too be risky for certain investors or are not in alignment with their investment goals or financial needs. For example, many older retail investors that are about to retire will likely require a more conservative investment plan that a much younger, single investor.

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This week, Prudential Financial Inc. (PRU) announced that is no longer distributing certain term life insurance policies, including its My Term product, through Wells Fargo’s (WFC) retail bank. The decision comes after Prudential employees filed a complaint claiming they were let go because they reported certain sales practices related to insurance policies. The insurer says it intends to probe the “full extent of abuses” that may have resulted from the Wells Fargo-related transactions. Prudential sold about 15,000 My Term accounts through the bank.

The employee lawsuit is Julie Han Broderick et al v. The Prudential Insurance Co. of America et al. The three plaintiffs, which include Han Broderick, Thomas Schreck, and Darron Smith, are seeking unspecified damages for wrongful termination. Prudential, however, claims that the reasons they were let go have nothing to do with its business with Wells Fargo but, rather, were related to an ethics complaint.

According to the NY Times, the ex-employees filed their complaint against Prudential and a regulatory officer, contending that they were let go as retaliation for their whistleblowing activities involving Wells Fargo’s allegedly fraudulent practices around the sales of My Term insurance policies. The plaintiffs, formerly supervisors in Prudential’s investigative division of its legal department, believe that this purported fraud was due to Wells Fargo cross-selling programs, which are now the subject of a number of lawsuits. They contend that they were fired go because they would not take part in Prudential’s alleged cover-up of the fraudulent and unlawful business practices it took part in and continues to engage in with Wells Fargo Bank.

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Ex-UBS Broker is Accused of Inflating Customer’s Account 
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Jeffrey Hamilton Howell from the broker-dealer industry. The former broker is accused of giving  a customer bogus weekly account statements that overvalued an account by up to $3M. The alleged misconduct is said to have occurred between 9/2008 and 11/2014.
According to FINRA, Howell sent the customer over 300 Stock Tracking Reports that misstated the client’s portfolio in amounts ranging from $289K to approximately $3M. He purportedly used his personal e-mail to send the customer some of the fake reports. This left UBS with records and books that were not accurate.

SEC Files Fraud Charges Against Former State Street Executive
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is filing fraud charges against ex-State Street Corp. (STT) executive Ross McClellan. According to the regulator, McLellan was one of a number of people who purposely charged hidden markups on certain transactions to customers, making the bank $20M in extra revenue.

Addressing the charges, McLellan’s lawyer claims that his client did not commit any securities law violations and that all banks charge client markups on bond transactions to make money. The attorney also noted that it was State Street and not the bank that profited from the charges.

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged McLellan with securities fraud, conspiracy, and wire fraud.

Ex-Wells Fargo Broker to Be Barred
Christopher John Pierce, a former Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) broker, will be barred from working with any FINRA-registered firm and associating with any member of the self-regulatory organization. Pierce agreed to the bar after he was accused of stealing money from the accounts of banking customers.

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The Securities and Exchange omission has filed charge against Wells Fargo Securities (WFC) and the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. accusing them of fraud in a municipal bond offering. According to the regulator, RIEDC, now called Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, used $75M in bonds to finance 38 Studios, which is a startup video game company. Wells Fargo served as the bond underwriter.

The SEC is charging RIEDC and Wells Fargo with Securities Act of 1933 violations. Wells Fargo is also charged with violating the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Municipal Securitas Rulemaking Board’s Rules G-17 and G-32.

The 38 Studios project was part of a state government program to increase economic development and employment opportunities through the lending of bond proceeds to private companies. The regulator said the RIEDC lent $50M in bond proceeds to the video game company, while the remaining proceeds went toward bond offering-related costs and the setting up of a reserve fund and a capitalized interest fund. The loan and investors were to be paid back through revenues made by video games that 38 Studios intended to make.

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The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a lower court made a mistake when it threw out the city of Miami’s claims accusing Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC ), and Citigroup Inc. (C) of engaging in predatory mortgage lending to Hispanic and black borrowers. The Florida city brought its claims under the Fair Housing Act.

Miami claims that the three banks directed non-Caucasian borrowers toward more expensive loans that were frequently not affordable to them even if their credit was good. The city said that because of this “reverse redlining,” there were a lot of foreclosures, a rise in spending to fight blight, and lower property tax collections.

A U.S. district court judge threw out Miami’s mortgage lawsuits last year. Judge William Dimitrouleas claimed that the city did not have the standing to sue and the harm alleged was too remote from the conduct of the banks.

The 11th circuit, however, said that standard was too strict. It believes that the banks could have foreseen that there would be attendant harm from such alleged discriminatory practices.
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