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Wells Fargo’s second-quarter earnings fall as impact of scandals linger

The logo for Wells Fargo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on May 17, 2018. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)
The logo for Wells Fargo appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on May 17, 2018. (Richard Drew / Associated Press)
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – Wells Fargo & Co., which has been mired in investigations related to its business practices since 2016, said Friday that its second-quarter earnings fell to $5.19 billion from $5.86 billion a year ago. The bank also revised its first-quarter earnings downward after agreeing in April to pay $1 billion in fines to federal regulators.

The bank has faced multiple investigations in recent years over practices including the opening of accounts without customers’ consent, charging clients for unnecessary insurance policies, and imposing unfair fees tied to mortgage rates.

Although Wells reported a 1 percent increase in net interest income, thanks to higher interest rates, the company saw declines in customer deposits and in loans, a sign of the lingering impact of the various scandals.

“The broad-based weakness of Wells Fargo’s results is troubling, with many indicators such as deposits, commercial and consumer lending trending down,” said Octavio Marenzi, of the analytical firm Opimas. “It appears that the slew of scandals that Wells Fargo has been involved in are taking their toll.”

Wells Fargo shares fell 3.2 percent in premarket trading.

In early May, Wells also agreed to pay a $480 million fine to resolve a class action lawsuit by shareholders who accused the bank of misstating or failing to disclose details about its sales practices. That came on the heels of the $1 billion fine in April tied to its mortgage and auto lending business. Half of that fine went to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose previous largest fine ever was $100 million, also against Wells Fargo.

Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve ordered Wells to freeze its growth until it could prove it had improved internal controls. The bank was also forced to replace several directors on its board.

Last month, Wells said that it would sell 52 retail bank branches in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio to a Flagstar Bancorp subsidiary, as well as several branches in Wisconsin. The company did not announce layoffs, but said almost 500 employees will be get job offers from Flagstar. Wells said it would reduce its number of branches it operates to about 5,000 by the year 2020.

The bank, based in San Francisco, said it had earnings of 98 cents per share. Adjusted for pretax expenses, earnings came to $1.08 per share, falling short of Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 10 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.12 per share.

Wells Fargo’s second-quarter results include a tax expense of $481 million mostly related to state income taxes following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows states to force more people to pay sales tax when they make online purchases.

The biggest U.S. mortgage lender posted revenue of $25.03 billion in the period. Its revenue net of interest expense was $21.55 billion, exceeding Street forecasts. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $21.52 billion.

Wells Fargo shares have dropped almost 8 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has increased almost 5 percent. The stock has climbed almost 2 percent in the last 12 months.

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