Wells Fargo discloses SEC investigation for sales practices

Wells Fargo, which is struggling to rebuild its reputation for integrity after a string of scandals involving consumer rip-offs, is testing the limits of the “puffery” defense.

Wells Fargo has made plans to close at least two branch bank locations in Nebraska this year so far.

The bank, which is the third-largest in the U.S. and second-largest in Nebraska based on deposit numbers, said last month that it plans to close nearly 1,000 branches nationwide by 2020.

That includes at least 250 branch locations this year, said Wells Fargo spokeswoman Julie Fogerson.

Wells Fargo had previously revealed in a regulatory filing that it plans to close a branch in McCook, and the Grand Island Independent reported Monday that the bank plans to close its main branch in the city's downtown area.

Fogerson said she could not comment on any other potential branch closings.

According to its website, Wells Fargo has 38 bank branch locations in Nebraska, including eight in Lincoln.

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Fogerson said decisions on branch closings are made based on "customer trends, market factors and economic changes."

Wells Fargo has faced a number of challenges over the past couple of years as scandals have come to light, including the revelation in 2016 that bank employees opened up more than 2 million checking and credit card accounts in customers' names without their knowledge or permission.

That scandal led to the resignations of then-CEO John Stumpf and Carrie Tolstedt, a Nebraska native who was head of community banking during the time the fake accounts were created.

That scandal, along with others involving mortgages and auto loans, led the Federal Reserve to slap a regulatory order on the bank earlier this month that prohibits it from growing its assets beyond what it held at the end of 2017.

Still, Wells Fargo Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsbury told Bloomberg in an interview Monday that he expects expects the bank's consumer loan portfolio to grow this year, and new CEO Tim Sloan said at a conference Tuesday that the Fed order's effect on its customers has been "nonexistent."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.


Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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