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Report: Wells Fargo Tipped Off to Federal OCC Investigation

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A high-level federal examiner at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency reportedly leaked information to Wells Fargo about the existence of an investigation – something that is strictly forbidden.

Debt defense attorneys in Miami know that this kind of disclosure means the bank could have taken measures to protect itself from criminal or civil liability.

American Banker reports the tip-off was uncovered by a watchdog agency with the U.S. Treasury Department, which found the examiner in charge of the Wells Fargo investigation for the OCC reportedly let the bank in on the probe by the Treasury Department. The exact nature of that investigation and the details of what Wells Fargo executives learned about it have not yet been released. In general, employees for the OCC are not supposed to discuss any pending investigative details unless they specifically have the express approval to do so.

This lead wasn’t previously reported, but was discovered in a recent report released by the inspector general’s office for the Treasury Department. It should be noted the OCC’s budget is dependent on fines and assessments against the banks it oversees – which includes Wells Fargo, a company with more than $2 trillion in assets.

Last spring, the agency conceded it had not taken effective or timely action against the banking giant after discovering massive problems with regard to the company’s sales practices. Those issues were learned about seven months before, and included the scandal wherein the bank’s employees had been directed to open millions of consumer accounts without their knowledge or permission. Many of those consumers incurred fees and hits to their credit score before they discovered what the bank had done. It’s estimated more than 2.1 million of these fraudulent accounts were created.

Numerous news agencies reported back in April that the OCC examiner who had been in charge of overseeing Wells Fargo’s regulation had been ousted from his position. What wasn’t revealed was that the very same day, the OCC requested an investigation by the inspector general of the Treasury Department about alleged inappropriate disclosures.

The examiner had been hired back in 1993 and was in his current role as a senior national bank examiner two years ago, managing a team of some five dozen people. He has filed his own lawsuit against his former employer for the anonymously-sourced reports of his wrongdoing. He has declined through his lawyer to discuss the latest 19-page report. He still works for the agency, but not in the same role.

The inspector general also has reportedly been asked to look into whether the examiner gave information to the bank regarding ongoing investigations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

One of the biggest issues, however, is that the OCC doesn’t have any bright line guidelines that would identify what can and cannot be talked about by examiners and banks.

Three years ago, Wells Fargo was ordered to pay $185 million in fines and penalties connected to its fraudulent account scandal.

This new report revives the discussion about whether examiners should be embedded in the financial institutions they are overseeing, or whether it creates too cozy of an environment. Inevitably, watchdogs say, those relationships are going to be exploited.

If you’re battling debt collection in Miami or the surrounding areas contact Jacobs Legal for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 305-358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday at 5 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.

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