Wall Street is livid over Wells Fargo’s latest scandal: ‘Here we go again’
Analysts are angry over the latest Wells Fargo (WFC) scandal where hundreds of thousands of the bank’s customers were overcharged.
Wells Fargo shares fell 2.6 percent Friday after The New York Times first reported the news. The stock closed 1.2 percent higher Monday, meanwhile.
The article cited a 60-page internal report, which revealed more than 800,000 of Wells Fargo’s auto loan customers were charged for car insurance they did not need.
Wells Fargo estimated the mistaken auto insurance sales would cost the bank $80 million in damages. Piper Jaffray said the true cost is likely understated.
“We believe the full cost may be significantly higher and weigh on the risk premium the market will place on shares,” Piper Jaffray analyst Kevin Barker wrote in a note to clients Friday entitled “Here we go again?”
Barker noted how the problem was identified in July of last year, but was not disclosed to investors and the public until last week.
“Why didn’t the company address these issues publicly while they were already dealing with the account scandal rather than address them now?” he wrote. “What other collateral damage may have been caused by the re-possession of these cars on peoples’ lives?”
Barker reiterated his neutral rating for Wells Fargo and his $52 price target for the shares, representing 2 percent downside to Friday’s close.
In similar fashion, JPMorgan also focused in on the bank’s lack of disclosure and its culture.
“It is very surprising that Wells Fargo has not changed the opaqueness in its disclosure and only disclosed this late on Thursday night when it realized a news story was about to break,” JPMorgan analyst Vivek Juneja wrote Monday. “This raises the question about what other changes Wells Fargo needs in its culture. There has been no change to the Board despite all the scandals, which has been frustrating some shareholders.”
Juneja reaffirmed his $57 price target for Wells Fargo shares and his neutral rating.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren pressed Fed Chair Janet Yellen on July 13 to remove all of the Wells Fargo’s directors who were on board during its fake accounts scandal revealed last year.
In September, Wells Fargo reached a $185 million settlement with regulators over creating what the bank then said could be as many as 2.1 million accounts in customer names without their permission.
On latest auto insurance scandal, the bank apologized and said it moved quickly to end the program Thursday.
“We take full responsibility for our failure to appropriately manage the collateral protection insurance program and are extremely sorry for any harm this caused our customers, who expect and deserve better from us,” Franklin Codel, head of Wells Fargo Consumer Lending, said in the statement. “Upon our discovery, we acted swiftly to discontinue the program and immediately develop a plan to make impacted customers whole.”
Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Wall Street coverage reports.
Its share have under-performed the market this year. Wells Fargo stock declined 3.3 percent year to date through Friday versus the S&P 500’s 10.4 percent return. The shares rose 1 percent Monday.
A proposed class action lawsuit was filed Sunday, which accuses the bank of racketeering violations and fraud over the auto insurance scandal.