Wells Fargo sales practices problems are credit negative: Moody's
The Wells Fargo bank branch is seen in Golden, Colorado October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
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By Dan Freed
(Reuters) - Sales practices at Wells Fargo & Co (NYSE: WFC) that led to $190 million in regulatory fines and penalties last week have negative credit implications for the bank, rating agency Moody's Investors Service said on Monday.
Moody's did not signal it would review Wells Fargo's current rating, but said it expects "some immediate damage to Wells Fargo's reputation from this embarrassing episode."
However, the Moody's note said Wells Fargo will eventually have a "more durable sales and marketing model" due to expected changes to its sales practices and incentive structures.
A Wells Fargo spokesman declined to comment.
Last Thursday, regulators including the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Los Angeles City Attorney fined Wells Fargo for opening fake customer accounts for products such as debit and credit cards in order to meet sales targets.
The accounts sometimes resulted in fees to Wells Fargo customers. More than 2 million fake accounts were created over five years, regulators said. Wells Fargo said it fired some 5,300 employees over five years following an inquiry into the issue.
Moody's has a long-term domestic issuer rating of A2 for Wells Fargo, with a stable outlook. That is one-notch higher than the comparable rating for JPMorgan Chase & Co (NYSE: JPM) and two notches higher than for Bank of America Corp (NYSE: BAC).
(Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Lauren Tara LaCapra)
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