California is still struggling to get back on its feet after a devastating housing crisis. And Wells Fargo is partly to blame for the sluggish recovery because it is refusing to modify home loans, according to a coalition of homeowners groups.
By foreclosing on homeowners who can't make their payments, the San Francisco-based bank will suck billions of dollars out of the state's economy, according to the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the Center for Popular Democracy and the Home Defenders League.
In a new report, the coalition charges that Wells Fargo has been less inclined to reduce the principle of home loans than have other banks, such as Bank of America.
Wells Fargo responded that it has a low foreclosure rate compared to the industry in general.
Wells Fargo's bias toward foreclosures is disproportionately affecting predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods, the report charges.
Right now, about 65,000 California homeowners have received notice of a pending foreclosure, and about 20 percent of these loans are serviced by Wells Fargo, the report says.
The report estimates that as of February 2013, Wells Fargo had 11,616 homes in its "foreclosure pipeline."
Foreclosing on the homes will have the following effects, according to the report:
- Each home would lose approximately 22 percent of its value, for a
total loss of approximately $1.07 billion,
- Homes in the surrounding neighborhood would lose value as well, for
an additional loss of about $2.2 billion, and
- Government tax revenues would be cut by $20 million, as a result of
If the bank were to reduce the principle on the borrowers' loans, homeowners would have more money to spend. This would boost the state's economy, the coalition says.
Wells Fargo often bundles loans to sell to other entities, such as Fannie Mae, but acts as an agent for the new lender, collecting payments and handling foreclosures. In that capacity, Wells Fargo makes more money through foreclosures than loan modifications, the report says.
Wells Fargo has had an aggressive principal reduction program for loans that we own since 2009. Wells Fargo conducts all lending and servicing activities in a fair and responsible manner without regard to race or ethnicity. We are proud to be the nation’s leading lender.
Wells Fargo issued a written statement in response to the report:
Over the last four years, Wells Fargo has:
• Helped more than 841,000 customers with loan modifications.
• Provided $6.3 billion in principal forgiveness—most of which has gone to borrowers in California.
Wells Fargo consistently provides assistance to customers facing financial challenges. Wells Fargo’s delinquency and foreclosure rates continue to rate below the industry average. Here are the facts:
• The combined national industry delinquency and foreclosure rates are roughly 11%. Wells Fargo’s is 7.04%.
• The Wells Fargo foreclosure rate in California is 1.04%*, less than half of our national rate.
*As of Q4 2012