Daily Archives: June 7, 2017

CFPB Is Probing Wells Fargo’s Mortgage Practices

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is conducting an investigation into alleged improprieties in Wells Fargo’s mortgage fee practices.

The CFPB is looking into allegations, first reported by ProPublica in January, that the bank inappropriately charged customers fees to extend their promised interest rates when their paperwork was delayed. The CFPB probe is in its early stages, according to a person familiar with it, and there is no certainty that the agency will take action. The CFPB has the power to levy fines and seek restitution if it finds a financial firm has violated the law. A CFPB spokesperson declined to comment.

Wells Fargo is also conducting its own internal review, overseen by the law firm Winston & Strawn. The inquiry was initially limited to the Los Angeles area, but has since widened. In a sign of its escalating scope and seriousness, Wells Fargo let three top mortgages executives go last week, including Greg Gwizdz, a 25-year veteran of the bank who most recently was the head of its retail sales division. Gwizdz oversaw the bank’s more than 7,900 loan officers.

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PRIVATE TOLL OPERATORS SALIVATE OVER DONALD TRUMP’S INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

INVESTORS ARE HOPING to seize upon the $1 trillion infrastructure plan proposed by President Donald Trump to transform the nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels into assets they can monetize by adding tolls and other user fees.

The Trump infrastructure plan, which the administration plans to roll outthis week, is centered on the idea of “asset recycling,” which refers to the process of securing new infrastructure spending by leasing the operations of existing public property to private operators.

The privatization-centered scheme has the nation’s largest toll operators salivating. Transurban, Cintra, and TransCore, three major toll operators, have retained federal lobbyists to influence the upcoming plan.

Transurban, which operates Washington-area Beltway tolls, has been accused of price gouging and predatory debt collection practices. In one lawsuit, a driver claimed that she was charged $3,413.75 for unpaid tolls, fees, and fines after Transurban failed to accept her initial payment for $104.15 for missing tolls on the Beltway toll lanes. Washington Post writer Fredrick Kunkle assailed Transurban for “price gouging” after the company hiked its rates to$30 during a winter snowstorm.

During an investor day presentation last month, Transurban’s Jennifer Aument, in charge of North America operations for the Australian company, hailed the Trump infrastructure plan as an opportunity for toll operators like Transurban to expand.

“The people that Trump has put in his administration, they are people who get our business,” Aument said. Trump, Aument added, had appointed several individuals who “were personally involved in working on Transurban’s projects under the Bush administration,” including the Beltway express lane tolls.

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DOJ opposes Wells Fargo on whistle-blower suit

The U.S. Justice Department filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Tuesday in a lawsuit brought against Wells Fargo & Co by two former employees, who were fired after they reported misdemeanors they had noticed to their supervisors.

The DOJ’s filing concluded that the appellate court, which had earlier dismissed the case, should revisit and modify its analysis.

The plaintiffs, Paul Bishop and Robert Kraus, had said the Wall Street bank had requested Federal Reserve loans on various occasions when it was in violation of certain banking regulations, in a complaint filed in 2011.

The suit, which was filed under the False Claims Act, is designed to encourage people to bring to light evidence of fraud against the government.

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