Policy

Democrats Exclude CFPB in Faulting Regulators of Wells Fargo

Currency comptroller, Federal Reserve and FDIC criticized

Ranking member Maxine Waters, D-Calif., participates in the House Financial Services Committee meeting to organize for the 115th Congress on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A House Democratic report on Wells Fargo’s fraudulent creation of millions of bank and credit card accounts faulted the oversight of regulators including the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

But the report released Friday by Democratic staff on the House Financial Services Committee didn’t blame the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for flaws in the investigation or enforcement at Wells Fargo, the nation’s second-largest bank by market capitalization.

The report took pointed swipes at a Republican staff report released Sept. 19 by Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, that found the CFPB’s $100 million fine against Wells Fargo in 2016 occurred despite internal bureau documents making the case for a nearly $11 billion fine against the bank. 

“This report not only documents a pattern of disregard for consumers at Wells Fargo but also makes the case for why prudential regulators’ enforcement of our current laws is insufficient to address widespread anti-consumer behavior by megabanks,” Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the committee’s ranking member, said in a news release on the Democrats’ report.

“Instead of investigating all of the illegal conduct of Wells Fargo, including the list of nefarious actions identified in this report that resulted in tremendous consumer harm, Committee Republicans have singled out the Consumer Bureau for attention, perhaps as a means of pursuing an ideological mission of functionally terminating the Consumer Bureau,” the report said.

The consumer bureau, created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, has been the target of Republican ire since even before it opened its doors in 2011. The House passed two bills on near party-line votes (HR 3354, the omnibus budget bill, and HR 10, a Dodd-Frank repeal and replace bill) both of which would have overhauled the CFPB and ended its budgetary independence from Congressional oversight.

Hensarling also blamed the CFPB for “the premature suspension of its investigation,” fining the bank in September 2016 and potentially losing the opportunity to further fine the company as more fraudulent activity was subsequently discovered.

The bank was initially found to have created up to 2 million fake accounts, but that figure has since grown to up to 3.5 million.

The Democratic report points to an OCC internal investigation that found the bank regulator should have discovered Wells Fargo’s wrongdoing sooner. The report also pointed out that Wells Fargo’s prudential regulators are empowered to remove bank officers and more directly “end unlawful practices at megabanks like Wells Fargo.”

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