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CodeWarriorz Thoughts: The Wells Fargo Watch- GREAT PAGE CodeWarriorZ BlueZ

CodeWarriorz Thoughts

Day to day musings of free speech activist CodeWarrior.


Thursday, February 17, 2005


The Wells Fargo Watch- GREAT PAGE

The Wells Fargo Watch
The Wells Fargo Watch

Click here for Inner City Press front page Click here to Search This Site

ICP has published a book about the Wells-relevant topics of predatory lending, and corporate fraud - click here for sample chapters, here for a map, here for fast ordering and delivery, and here for other ordering information. CBS MarketWatch of April 23, 2004, says it has "some very funny moments." The Washington Post of March 15, 2004, calls Predatory Bender: America in the Aughts "the first novel about predatory lending;" the London Times of April 15, 2004, "A Novel Approach," said it "has a cast of colorful characters." See also, "City Lit: Roman a Klepto [Review of ‘Predatory Bender’]," by Matt Pacenza, City Limits, Sept.-Oct. 2004. The Pittsburgh City Paper says the 100-page afterword makes the "indispensable point that predatory lending is now being aggressively exported to the rest of the globe." Click here for that review; click here to Search This Site For or with more information, contact us.

Updated February 14, 2005

Inner City Press / Community on the Move (ICP) and its Fair Finance Watch have become increasingly concerned with Wells Fargo's predatory lending, including overseas. ICP first identified these issues at Wells in 1997 (see discussion of Wells' "Island Finance" and its 25% interest rate loans, below), and raised them then, and in 2000 (see, e.g., "N.Y. Activists Seek Nevada Hearing," Las Vegas Sun, Oct. 24, 2000, and "Consumer Advocates Want Hearings on Wells Fargo Deal," Associated Press, April 18-19, 2000 (Alaska). See also, "Group Objects to Wells Deals," by Todd Davenport, American Banker, July 29, 2003, Pg. 17, quoting ICP that "Wells Fargo is a predatory lender, and is exporting these practices beyond the United States." See also, "Group Files to Block Wells Fargo Acquisition," Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 29, 2002; "Wells Fargo Accused of Predatory Lending," Denver Post, July 29, 2003; "Wells Fargo Accused of Unfair Lending," Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 2003; longer list here.

Update of February 14, 2005: A Phoenix woman sued Wells Fargo & Co. in federal court on Feb. 9, alleging her former employer failed to pay overtime. The lawsuit seeks class-action status to represent thousands of current and former so-called ``business systems'' employees who produce automated versions of paper forms and perform other automation jobs. The suit was brought by Jasmin Gerlach, who worked in the bank's Phoenix office from 1995 to 2004. She claims she is entitled to being paid for past overtime work because she and others were wrongly classified as being exempt from overtime pay... For or with more information, contact us

Update of January 31, 2005: Tales of Wells Fargo Financial’s non-mortgage predation, from PhillyNews last week: on Nov. 28, 2003, Ms. Ying Zhang bought two bedroom sets and a table for $4,800 at Raymour & Flanigan in Wilmington, Delaware. The lender was Wells Fargo Financial. Zhang “made monthly payments, as required, and a final payment on Nov. 24. But when Zhang looked back at the paperwork, something didn't add up: Her final payment had included nearly $900 in accumulated interest.... Zhang first called Wells Fargo Financial, which provided the financing for Zhang and other customers at the privately held furniture retailer. A Wells Fargo rep referred Zhang to the contract she signed, which indeed did say, "The no interest option ends on 11/07/2004." When Zhang protested that the offer was for a year, not 11 months. [After PhillyNews’ inquiries,] Raymour & Flanigan spokesman Heather Ward called back to say that Wells Fargo would be sending Zhang a full refund of the interest she paid... Ward referred questions about financing to Wells Fargo. Bank spokesman Steve Carlson said the interest-free due date is disclosed on sales slips and monthly statements. Why does a ‘one year’ offer ever come due less than a year later? Carlson couldn't say, but told me: ‘If we have erred, we do what is right for the customer.’” Yeah -- if they have a major metropolitan daily newspaper on their side. If not? Well, that’s where Wells Fargo Financial’s profits come from...

Update of January 24, 2005: Wells on the prowl -- in an interview earlier this month, CEO Dick Kovacevich said his competitors “are running out of gas, and either they merge with someone to get restarted or they sell to someone... We're seeing more opportunities to do deals at closer to financially attractive levels than before."

Update of January 18, 2005: Wells Fargo announced on January 10 its stake in Charlotte NC-based Viewpointe LLC, which archives more than 25 billion electronic check images a year. Given Wells Fargo's record in leaking (or having stolen) customers' private information, it’s questionable how good a fit this is...

Update of January 10, 2005: Rumors of a merger were swirling over the weekend: Wells Fargo eying Barclays (which is more publicly making moves on South Africa’s Absa Group Ltd). Well at least now the predatory lending is uniformly branded: on January 4 “Wells Fargo announced that its “Trans Canada Credit Corp. subsidiary has changed its name to Wells Fargo Financial Corporation Canada. Wells Fargo Financial, the consumer finance subsidiary of the financial services giant, acquired Trans Canada in November 1992 and operated it under that name until Jan. 1.” From Wells Fargo’s own press release: “One element of the name change project is creation of a new French logo and corporation name, Societe financiere Wells Fargo Canada, to be used in Quebec. It represents the first time a Wells Fargo entity has conducted business under a French name.” At least one that can be printed in a family newspaper...

Update of December 20, 2004: Little shifts in Wells Fargo’s subprime auto lending business: last week, Wells Fargo Financial announced it will sell its Florida-based Consumer Auto Receivables auto loan unit to fellow-subprimer CompuCredit (which is also now a payday lender, with the f/k/a First American Cash Advance, and side deals with Synovus). To be sure, Wells is still in subprime auto: “Officials said Wells Fargo Financial will remain one of the premier non-prime automobile lenders in North America through its Philadelphia-based Wells Fargo Financial Acceptance business unit. That unit, which has about 580,000 customers, has more than $8 billion in receivables.”

Update of December 6, 2004: ICP has timely challenged Wells Fargo’s Texas application. Last week, ICP received a partial copy of Wells Fargo’s November 29, 2004, submission (the “Letter”). The Letter at page 34 states that “Confidential Exhibit 9 (Question 6) contains a list of businesses with which Wells Fargo maintains a business relationship whose business operations may constitute subprime lending. This exhibit includes the [NAICS] code for these businesses, and the Wells Fargo lending group providing lending or services to each business.” This is an outrageous withholding, given that ICP and now Bloomberg News (see below) have identified many of the fringe financiers which Wells Fargo funds or otherwise enables. Additionally, the above quoted does NOT fully respond to FRB Question 6, which asks not only about subprime lenders, but also “providers of non-traditional financial services (such as check cashers, pawn shops, or rent-to-own businesses).” An additional response must be demanded and released, ICP has commented to the Fed...

Update of November 29, 2004: Hitting a new low, in last week’s Bloomberg News article about the funding of payday loans and lenders, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Susan Stanley-Jones spun: “Free and equal access to credit for any legitimate business that complies with all laws is a cornerstone of the free enterprise system.” This was in response to the showing, from ICP to Bloomberg and then on the wire, that Wells ” has extended credit to Payday Inc. in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Payday Plus Inc. in North Dakota; and Payday Express Inc. in Omaha, Nebraska, among others, according to UCC filings.” Bloomberg -- unlike, we’re hoping, another major publication -- missed the Wells - Armed Forces Loans, Inc. connection. The big picture: Wells Fargo enables predatory lending, and is itself a predator...

Update of November 22, 2004: From the mail bag:

Subj: Wells Fargo complaint to add to website list

Date: 11/20/2004 9:17:28 AM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name withheld at request]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I, too, have been mislead by individuals at Wells Fargo. I had an increase in property taxes and had to seek other means of being able to afford my mortgage payment. I received a call from Wells Fargo within the same week of receiving an annual escrow statement from my previous banking institution. The coincidence was uncanny. I explained to her the reason I had to refinance was because the property taxes had been increased without my knowledge and I wanted to be able to have affordable payments. I was told that they would definitely be able to get us a reasonable rate with a lower monthly payment. We proceeded with the loan. The fact that sealed the deal was that we were informed that we could borrow the amount owed to our previous lender and in addition to this amount, we were told we could borrow enough money to cover fall of this year's property taxes and spring of next year as well. During the processing of the closing, communication began to break down, we were given different facts about the entire process left and right. The agent finally said that the loan had to be changed from a 30 yr. loan to a 15 yr. loan to get the amount of money that we wanted in order for the amount to be approved. The rate appeared to be reasonable based on the monthly payment, so we consented still under the impression that the property taxes owed had been figured into the closing amount. We recently received a letter from our previous lender stating that we had an overpayment. Through investigation we discovered that property taxes had not been paid and figured into our refinanced loan amount. When we called Wells Fargo to investigate this matter someone took our information and said they would get back to us. At this point, they knew we were very frustrated and misinformed by someone. We did not receive any phone call and in fact we had to track the agent down. She ignored our calls. When we spoke to her, she gave us the impression that this is the first she had heard about the situation and had to be informed all over again. Obviously, she did not care about our concerns or she would have called us and made it a priority to get back with us. She then informed us that based on our appraisal the amount which we had requested was denied because we didn't have enough equity. This is totally false because our home appraised for $5,000 more than the loan amount we were asking for. And at the time of closing, we were encouraged to borrow more money from them to consolidate other bills! Credit is not an issue here---because both my fiancé and I have excellent credit and we wish to keep it that way. Had we been informed that our Fall 04/Spring 05 taxes could not be factored into our loan amount we would have stayed with the previous lender. As it is now, we are having to come up with over $200 more a month to cover bills compared to what our financial situation would have been had we just stayed with the previous lender. The agent knew our concerns, knew our goals and she was only wanting to seal the deal. I am appalled by the incompetence of this agent and the blatant disregard that she had for our concerns and our financial well being. I feel that she purposefully withheld information from us in order to seal the deal. This was unethical. Had when been informed of the real facts we could have concluded that going with Wells Fargo was not in our best interest and we would not have proceeded with the loan. Now we are locked in with Wells Fargo for three years because if we withdraw from them and refinance with someone else within that timeframe, they can charge us $7,000. Please, I beg you to actively pursue your quest in holding Wells Fargo accountable for their actions. They are simply wolves in sheep's clothing!!!!! Sincerely, A Betrayed Customer

Update of November 15, 2004: Wells Fargo’s general counsel James Strother, with an opportunity to address Wells Fargo’s documented relationship with payday lenders including Armed Forces Loans, Inc., which directs its high-cost loans at active duty military personnel, has in a November 11 letter provided only boiler plate. “Wells Fargo and its affiliates have, on a transaction-by-transaction basis, acted as a lender or provider of credit facilities to unaffiliated entities engaged in consumer finance businesses which may including acting as a payday lender... Loan proceeds may or may not involve funding the actual lending operations of such entities...”. Targeting high-cost payday loans at soldiers? ICP has replied....

Update of November 8, 2004: While waiting for Wells Fargo’s response, in came Citigroup’s November 4 response to Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch’s submission to the Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of Uniform Commercial Code filings by Citigroup and its proposed acquisition, First American Bank:

“ICP attaches certain records of [UCC] filings related to several Citigroup and FAB clients... As a practice, Citigroup and its bank subsidiaries do no engage in the business of funding check cashing or payday lending businesses. Citigroup’s account opening procedures and credit policies generally prohibit the opening of new accounts for businesses identified as check cashing operations. Citigroup does have a single active relationship with an armored car company that also includes a checking account to an affiliate in the check cashing business. This account predates the Citigroup procedures for check cashers, and Citigroup has been in the process of winding down the relationship pursuant to a gradual exit strategy.

“In addition, on occasion check cashing businesses have become customers in connection with Citigroup’s acquisition of other financial institutions. In such cases, Citigroup undertakes a post-acquisition review of these relationships and takes action to close or limit them, when appropriate. Citigroup makes changes to conform with its business practices as expeditiously as commercially reasonable, yet in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of an existing client...”

While contesting some of the above, ICP has now submitted a second timely comment on Wells Fargo. ICP in its first comment put into the record the commitment by another of Wells Fargo’s peers, SunTrust, to no longer fund payday lending or car title lending companies. Now, as to Wells Fargo and check cashing companies, ICP has submitted some examples:








We’ll see...For or with more information, contact us

November 1, 2004: Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has just filed timely comments opposing Wells Fargo's proposed acquisitions:

November 1, 2004

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Attn: Chairman Alan Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20551

Re: Timely comment opposing and requesting public hearings on Wells Fargo’s proposal to acquire First Community Capital Corporation and its affiliates

Dear Chairman Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson, FRB:

On behalf of Inner City Press/Community on the Move and its members and affiliates, including the Fair Finance Watch (collectively, “ICP”), this is a timely comment opposing, requesting public hearings on the applications by Wells Fargo & Co. (along with its affiliates, “Wells”) to acquire First Community Capital Corporation, First Community Capital Corporation of Delaware, Inc., First Community Bank, N.A., First Community Bank San Antonio, N.A (along with their affiliates, “First Community” or “FC”).

ICP is opposed to Wells Fargo’s proposed acquisitions of under the Community Reinvestment Act, based on systemic lending disparities, including the targeting of protected classes with higher cost credit through Wells Fargo Financial, and, particularly, Wells Fargo’s enabling of high-cost payday lenders, car title lenders, rent-to-own and pawn shops and other predatory fringe financiers. Perhaps the worst, and the one on which ICP demands immediate action by the FRB (including because ICP provided documentary evidence of this outrage to both senior FRB staff and the chairman in July 2004) is Wells Fargo's funding of a payday lender whose focus is active duty military service-members: Armed Forces Loans, Inc., of 3824 South Jones, Las Vegas, Nevada. Beyond Armed Forces Loans, Inc., here’s another sample dirty dozen financed by Wells Fargo:



EZ PAWN HOLDINGS, INC., of 1901 CAPITAL PARKWAY, AUSTIN, TX 78746 (financed by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as recently as April 13, 2004, according to Uniform Commercial Code filings);

EXPRESS TITLE & PAYDAY LOANS, INC. of 1131 WARREN LANE, VERNON HILLS, ILLINOIS 60061, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., according to an Illinois Uniform Commercial Code filing
ADVANCE AMERICA CASH ADVANCE CENTERS, headquartered as 135 NORTH CHURCH STREET, SPARTANBURG, SC 29306, multiply financed by Wells Fargo, including in 2004;
AUTO PAWN, INC. of 7534 HICKMAN RD, DES MOINES, IA 50322, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK IOWA, N.A., according to Iowa UCC records;
PAYDAY LOANS III, L.L.C. in Idado, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.
1 STOP CHECK CASHING $ PAYDAY & TITLE LOANS, LLC of 10555 E FIRESTONE BLVD, NORWALK, CA 90650, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, according to a May 6, 2004, Arizona UCC filing

and, again, ARMED FORCES LOANS INC. of 3824 S JONES STE G, LAS VEGAS, NV 89103, regarding which, see "Lending Scams Target Military," at http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/generalpay/a/loanscam.htm

Wells Fargo targets its higher-cost loans, through Wells Fargo Financial, at protected classes. Using Texas as an example, in 2003 in the Houston MSA, Wells Fargo Bank NA (CA) denied African Americans' refinance loan applications 2.34 times more frequently than whites, and denied Latinos’ applications 2.20 times more frequently than whites. Significantly, Wells Fargo Bank made 2716 refinance loans to whites, and only 161 to African Americans -- 16.9 loans to whites for each loan to an African American, for Wells Fargo’s prime-rate lender. Meanwhile in this MSA, Wells’ subprime lender Wells Fargo Financial Texas, Inc. made only 1.33 loans to whites for each loan to an African American. In the Houston MSA, Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans 12.7 times more frequently at African Americans than whites (henceforth, the "targeting index").

In the Dallas MSA in 2003, Wells Fargo Bank NA (CA) made 1429 refinance loans to whites, and only 53 to African Americans -- 27 loans to whites for each loan to an African American, for Wells Fargo's prime-rate lender. Meanwhile in this MSA, Wells' subprime lender Wells Fargo Financial Texas, Inc. made 108 higher-cost refinance loans to African Americans, and 252 to whites -- 2.3 loans to whites for each loan to an African American household. Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans in Dallas 11.7 times more frequently at African Americans than whites.

Wells Fargo’s targeting index, similarly calculated, is 6.81 in Austin, Texas; 3.42 in El Paso, and a whopping 17.2 in San Antonio. Wells Fargo also funds and enables payday and car title lenders and pawnshops in Texas. Wells Fargo’s applications to expand, particularly but not only in Texas, should be denied.

Wells Fargo's targeting of protected classes with higher-cost subprime loans from Wells Fargo Financial is nationwide. In the Los Angeles MSA in 2003, Wells Fargo Bank NA (CA) made 1116 refinance loans to whites, and only 121 to African Americans -- 9.2 loans to whites for each loan to an African American, for Wells Fargo's prime-rate lender. Meanwhile in this MSA, Wells' subprime lender, Wells Fargo Financial California, made 95 higher-cost refinance loans to African Americans, and 161 to whites -- 1.7 loans to whites for each loan to an African American household. Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans in Los Angeles 5.41 times more frequently at African Americans than whites. Finally, for now, in its headquarters MSA of San Francisco, Wells Fargo targets its high-cost loans in Los Angeles five times more frequently at African Americans than whites.

It is time for the FRB to inquire closely into disparities and discrepancies in Wells Fargo’s subprime lending including beyond the continental United States. As simply one example, Wells Fargo has stated

"Island Finance does not have a specialized customer service department or a toll-free telephone number for complaints. Customers who have complaints contact the store handling their account. If the store is unable to resolve the complaint the complaint if referred to the district manager. If the district manager is unable to resolve the complaint it is referred [to] the district manager's supervisor."[FN]

That Puerto Rico-based Island Finance has even less consumer protection safeguards that Wells Fargo Financial's overall operations is significant -- and, ICP contends, is violative of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, given the demographics of Island Finance's headquarters and its lending operations.

Here are some sample consumer abuse by Wells Fargo in the U.S., based on messages directed to ICP:

Subj: Wells Fargo Problem

Date: 10/5/2004 6:08:30 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I found your web site most interesting as I am currently in a struggle with the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Dept. Last year my insurance company dropped to a grade C and was informed I needed to change to a different carrier with a better standing. In April of 2003 I did just that. As of April 11, 2003 I changed to a higher grade insurance with the same agent all while never changing my policy number.

In May of 2003, the following month, I refinanced with Wells Fargo. Being that my loan already belonged to Wells Fargo I assumed the process would be quick and payless.

One of the requirements when refinancing your home is to verify insurance and it was at that time that I handed over all my new insurance information to the loan officer at my local Wells Fargo Bank. My insurance was verified, the information was processed and I closed on the house soon after.

In August of 2004, I received a letter from Wells Fargo stating that my mortgage payment was increasing by the ridiculous amount of $600.00. Being that I live in a rapidly growing city I assumed it had to be taxes etc... I had no choice but to pay my September mortgage statement $600.00 higher than the past 12 months. My wife and I discussed selling that house and moving into an apartment. How were we going to afford this?

I decided to let one of my colleagues review the statement and he immediately noticed that my insurance premium was listed at $3,500.00. He asked how big my house was and why was I paying that extremely high premium of $3,500. After a little digging, I found that my insurance premium should have been listed at $895.00 not $3,500.00. We are talking about a 400% difference here.

I immediately called my insurance carrier and was amazed to find out that my insurance had been cancelled in April 11, 2004 due to non-payment. Non-payment!. I escrow my insurance payment and Wells Fargo had $1,000.00 plus in my escrow for my insurance payment. What happened? Why was it not paid?

After many, many calls to Wells Fargo I was able get a handle of the situation. It turns out that the new insurance information was processed but my insurance carrier they was never informed of the changes to the loan number (due to refinance). My insurance company sent a notice to Wells Fargo in Feb 2004 stating that my payment was coming due in April. They sent one in April then they sent one in May notifying them of cancellation. Since my insurance carrier was not notified of the change in loan number Wells Fargo did not act on the payment request and did not pay. According to Wells Fargo, I allowed my insurance to expire. That came directly from their mouth, I let my insurance expire. A letter notifying me of this was not even sent until 1 month after my policy had been cancelled. For the record, I did not receive this letter or the other 2 that they say was mailed. You would think that something this serious in nature would require a simple phone call or maybe a certified letter asking me to contact them immediately. When asked why they did not call me they stated it was not their policy to do so. So what do they do instead? You guessed it, they put me into their own insurance carrier at a rate 400% higher than the one I had selected. 400% higher.

What's worse is that they have never once apologized to me or my wife. Instead, they are committed to telling me that it was my fault and I should have responded to my letters. Meanwhile my October payment is coming due and I told them I would not pay that ridiculous amount again. They said it would take 3 to 6 weeks to resolve this and recommended I make the payment. The hell I am, I said. If you can't help me get me to someone who can. Soon after I was transferred over to a diff. department who would only differ the $2,500.00 negative balance over 2 years bringing my payment back to earth and putting a band aid on the situation.

I failed to mention that I obviously had to get a new insurance policy at a slightly higher rate than last year. Wells Fargo paid the policy but then charged 1,000.00 back to my escrow account. For those of you keeping score that puts me back to a negative 3,500.00 If not for my initial insurance escrow of 1,000.00 I could be at negative 4,500 by now. Wells Fargo managed to get a 1/3 of the 3,500.00 back from the carrier but still have to consider if they should credit me the remaining balance or not.

I now have to wait 3 to 6 weeks before a supervisor makes a decision on the remaining balance currently negative on my escrow account. When asked why it took so long the answer I got was, "they are reviewing lots of other similar cases". I asked, does this happen a lot and she responded, "all the time". Amazing!

Subj: Our Wells Fargo story-names deleted

Date: 10/19/2004 10:34:18 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name Withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I am a Real Estate and Mortgage Broker working with a property owner of a property in Aurora, CO 80011-- the Seller had to move back home to Australia because of cancer and its treatment. She needed to be near her family. The property owner's ex-husband was given Power of Attorney to sell the property for her. Unfortunately he was involved in a serious automobile accident that incapacitated him for a number of months and the property went into foreclosure.

When the ex-husband recovered sufficiently he contacted me to help him sell the property. In June 2004 we found a Buyer-- had a contract and even an approved loan. All of the paperwork was submitted multiple times to the Wells Fargo foreclosure department. We made many calls to them for updates on status of the offer. After two months we had heard nothing and the Buyer walked from the deal-- no longer willing to cope with the aggravation.

In mid- August the ex-husband and I found another Buyer-- and put together another deal-- including a fully approved loan-- the offer price is actually more than Wells Fargo's later VPO showed the property is worth. This time we have actually talked a couple times with representatives of Wells Fargo's foreclosure department who assure us that our Offer is a great offer and should be approved any minute. NOW-- 6-8 weeks after our initial submission-- and four Amend Extends later-- we are still waiting for an approval-- or even a disapproval. Our Wells Fargo contact assures us it looks like a good deal-- and fits within the number parameters they look for-- and it just sat for FOUR DAYS on his supervisor's desk while he went on vacation--and had not even been touched when he returned. (This is not the first time we have gone through a similar scenario-- only to have the file given to a new employee who starts the process all over!)

Our latest amend-extend runs out in two days. The Buyer is reluctant to re-extend the contract-- cos he doesn't think Wells Fargo will ever get the file cleared and approved. I am tending to agree with him. I think the Wells Fargo Foreclosure department is the most inept system and the most apathetic, incompetent bunch of people I have ever run into... Eventually WF will pay the price-- the Bank, the organization. I think all the news revealing not only corruption, but also ineptness and inefficiency, within the corporate culture is pointing the finger to a truth that says that eventually the organization pays for all the crap it has been shoving down its customers-- and other's-- throats. Attitudes that say the little guy doesn't count just can't prosper anyone in the long run.

Subj: Out of Control

Date: 10/8/03 4:14:37 AM Eastern Daylight Time

From: [Name Withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

I am extremely impressed with your understanding and explanation of what is going on with the banks and the regulatory institutions in this country. Hopefully your editorials reach enough people who care whom will stand up and fight against these fraudsters. Unfortunately, the white collar crime is roaring ahead at the speed of the internet as banks like Wells Fargo Bank, NA (securities vehicle) parade around disguised as a real bank with insurance for your accounts.

I am at the beginning of an arbitration suit with Wells Fargo Bank, NA here in Nevada. The case stems back to February 1997 originally created by a loan officer @ 145 West Portal Branch for Wells Fargo Bank. The bank officer added a third page to a completed two page application for a $100,000.00 business line of credit for overdraft and cash flow need for my construction company. She added a third page to the application which the bank tells me created a MasterCard account that had an additional $100,000.00 line attached to it. When I increased my line to $200,000.00 in December 1997, ten months later, the MasterCard was not closed out. On March 9, 1998, a $97,000.00 debit posts to my credit line, deposits in to my business checking account, and debits the checking account the same day referencing "Bank Originated Entry". The saga continues unabated and has grown horns over the last five years. I believe that a majority of the problems may stem from my citizenship papers. I was born in St. Johns, Newfoundland on Peppermill Air Force Base to American parents. My father has a FS-240 (Report of Birth for Children Born Abroad to American Parents) form filled out by the Consul in Newfoundland. The only problem is, the Birth of Child Certificate Number on the FS-240 doesn't reference my Birth Certificate but another Report of Birth which I can only assume is another child. On June 1, 1966, I am issued Naturalization/Citizenship papers at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona where my father is stationed at the time. These papers certify that I am a Citizen of the United States but what about the child referred to in the FS-240. Another interesting note is at the bottom of the FS-240 it states:

Service No. 736

Tariff 13a

This is clearly some type of trading reference which is created by the Consul Huston Dixon in April 1958. 45 years later coupled with the speed of the internet, this vehicle appears to have become a major trade vehicle between Canada and the US which passes through undetected through a Federal Reserve Account held in a Custodial Trust Account for a Minor I have been researching fraud on my accounts with Wells Fargo with little of no cooperation from the Bank. I also was unable to get my attorney's to file a motion against the bank. I finally released my counsel and filed a ten million arbitration suit against the bank on my own. Hopefully the truth will matter and I will be reimbursed for all of the fraudulent transactions on my accounts over the years.

Do you know whom American Securities Company of Nevada is? They are trustees in the State of Nevada for Wells Fargo Bank, NA and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc. The are right in the middle of all the non-judicial foreclosures as they help facilitate the exchange of Deeds of Trust registering them with MERS. What a mess. I am not sure if no one really cares or is it too complicated for the public to understand. The white collar criminals have really cooked up a dozy with this pyramid scheme. Arbitrating with themselves as Wells Fargo now owns and insurance company that pays the claims which are passed down through the stock price of the bank securities offerings all the while, paying themselves, AGAIN.

Anyway, thank you for your time...

More needs to be (and will be) said -- including about Wells Fargo’s still-entirely-unreformed subprime lending beyond the continental United States -- but ICP will await copies of the FRB's correspondence with and about Wells Fargo and First Community, and the banks' responses. Specifically, based on prior FRS precedents, at a minimum the following question(s) should be asked, and publicly answered:

"For any business relationship (e.g. commercial lender, warehouse lender, purchaser, custodian, etc.) that Wells Fargo or First Community or any of their affiliates have with any subprime lenders (including providers of non-traditional banking products, such as check cashers, title lenders, pawn shops, or rent-to-own businesses): (i) identify the relevant business parties and (ii) describe the nature of the business relationships... Additionally, to the extent not otherwise covered in your responses to the comments of the Inner City Press Community on the Move & Fair Finance Watch, describe any due diligence that Wells Fargo or First Community typically conducts concerning any such subprime lender's compliance with applicable fair lending and consumer protection laws prior to entering into these business relationships, including... (c ) any monitoring or other ongoing procedures Wells Fargo or First Community has adopted to access compliance with these laws. Provide a copy of such procedures that are used to determine whether third party originators are engaged in, or facilitating, abusive and/or predatory lending practices." [FN: Also incorporated herein by reference and to be made part of the record, for obvious reasons, is the July 12, 2004, submission of SunTrust Banks, Inc., on these issues.

The answers to these questions should be made public, as argued in the FOIA appeal and complaint filed by ICP in connection with Wachovia - SouthTrust (the FRB was served with the complaint on October 25, 2004).

Communications regarding these proceedings, including Wells Fargo’s responses, any and all FRB communications with Wells Fargo, and the improperly withheld portions of the Applications, should be provided to the undersigned.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew R. Lee, Esq.
Executive Director
Inner City Public Interest Law Center
& Inner City Press/Community on the Move
Tel: 718-716-3540 Fax: 718-716-3161

NOTE: For or with more information, contact us. This will be updated; stay tuned...

Earlier reports:

In late July 2003, ICP filed challenges to the applications by Wells Fargo to acquire Pacific Northwest Bank, and Grand Junction Bank in Colorado. The comments, filed with the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco and summarized below, focus not only on Wells' abuse-plagued subprime lending in the continental United States -- including as documented in complaints that consumers have directed to ICP -- but also overseas, in Panama, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and the U.S. territories of Guam and Saipan, as well as Puerto Rico (Free Associated State). See, "Group Objects to Wells Deals," by Todd Davenport, American Banker, July 29, 2003, Pg. 17, quoting ICP that "Wells Fargo is a predatory lender, and is exporting these practices beyond the United States." See also, "Group Files to Block Wells Fargo Acquisition," Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 29, 2002; "Wells Fargo Accused of Predatory Lending," Denver Post, July 29, 2003; "Wells Fargo Accused of Unfair Lending," Rocky Mountain News, July 29, 2003. This will be updated at least weekly. Until then, for or with more information, contact us.

Update of September 27, 2004: Sleazy Wells’ sleazy business: in New Jersey, the Attorney General's Office has launched an investigation into bankrupt phone reseller NorVergence, and its financier: Wells Fargo Financial Leasing. Wells has continued to demand payment from former NorVergence customers who bought the company's "Matrix'' box. Customers typically signed five-year lease agreements for the box for tens of thousands of dollars, even though the box itself was worth far less. Steve Carlson, a spokesman for Wells Fargo Financial Leasing, tried to defend Wells’ position. "The customers made an independent decision to do business with NorVergence and we simply financed the equipment hardware lease transaction," he said. He said his company will comply with any applicable law or court order. And yet still nothing from Wells, on its documented funding of payday lender directed as active duty soldiers...Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.

Update of September 13, 2004: In New York on September 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated a portion of the claims in a class-action lawsuit against Wells Fargo and its home mortgage units alleging they improperly marked up fees for real estate settlement services performed by third parties. The 2d Circuit remanded the reinstated claim to U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York, after finding found that a group of homeowners in New York and California who used Wells Fargo settlement services had made sufficient arguments that the home mortgage units of Wells Fargo marked up fees for real estate services performed by third parties for the claim to proceed. The court found that the statute doesn't establish price controls for settlement services nor does it prohibit overcharges... And where does all this money go? Large Richard: Wells CEO Kovacevich sold 95,000 company shares last week through a family trust, according to an SEC filing. The K-man indirectly sold the shares last Thursday for $59.15 to $59.17 each, according to the Form 4 filing from September 7. After the transactions, the family trust beneficially held 1.51million Wells Fargo shares, the filing said. According to the company's most recent proxy statement, Kovacevich had 1.61 million Wells Fargo common shares as of Feb. 29 in trusts of which the CEO is a co-trustee. Like we said, Large Richard....

Update of September 6, 2004: We'll have more to say, when timely, about Wells Fargo's proposal to acquire Houston-based First Community Capital Corporation -- despite the opportunity, Wells never responded regarding its funding of payday lenders including those targeting the military (see below in this Report).

Update of August 16, 2004: From Forbes magazine’s recent send-up of Kovacevich: he says "his bigger competitors are cowards bound for trouble." Bank of America's purchase of FleetBoston for $48 billion? "Excessive." J.P. Morgan Chase's $57 billion payout for Bank One? "Both are running out of gas. I don't believe in economies of scale. You don't get better by being bigger. You get worse," Kovacevich says. Can’t say we disagree. But, among other things, why is this company funding Armed Forces Loans dot com, which targets high-cost payday loans at active duty soldiers. What, we ask, could be worse than that?

At an entirely different, more grassroots level: in Oklahoma City, WFF-ers are movin’ on: Ashley Nicole Craft, for example, has left her job as a "credit analyst in consumer lending" for Wells Fargo Financial in Oklahoma City and jumped to UMB Bank as a commercial banking officer...

Update of August 9, 2004: A HUD audit of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage found that WFHM improperly submitted 2,325 loans for late endorsement. According to a HUD inspector general report, Wells submitted the FHA loans more than 60 days after closing and the borrowers were delinquent on their payments. The IG is recommending that the HUD secretary require indemnification for any losses on the 2,325 loans. We'll see.

Update of August 2, 2004: From the editorial board of the Orlando Sentinel from their July 30 edition, "SunTrust was Right to End Business with Payday and Car Title Lenders" -- "SunTrust made its decision to cut ties with such lenders after a consumer group filed a complaint with the Federal Reserve opposing the bank's pending merger with National Financial Corp. of Memphis, Tenn. Among other complaints, Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch said records showed SunTrust had at least 60 customers making payday or car-title loans. Announcing its decision, SunTrust cited the ‘potential reputational risks and consumer harm’ that could come from lending to such companies. How candid, and how refreshing. ICP believes SunTrust's decision could persuade other banks -- especially those seeking government approval for mergers -- to follow suit. Let's hope so." Thanks, Orlando Sentinel. And what does Wells Fargo have to say, of any substance? We’ll report it here. Here also is an editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal of July 31:

"National Commerce Financial Corp. and SunTrust Banks recently decided to stop doing business with companies that provide payday or car title loans. The move, while commendable, appears to have been done to win favor with federal regulators who will decide whether to approve a merger between NCF and SunTrust. Whatever the motives, the decision shows why high interest loans that are frequently made to lower income borrowers deserve careful scrutiny....A protest by the Inner City Press/Community on the Move and Fair Finance Watch apparently helped NCF and SunTrust see the light... Those words should be a wake-up call to local companies that want to deal in those types of loans. Unless they're willing to accept more regulation and greater accountability, maybe more major financial institutions will follow the lead of NCF and SunTrust.
And then car title lenders will know what it feels like to struggle to get a loan."

That last sentiment, we like how the Commercial Appeal's editorial board put it. (Click here for the full text of these editorial, and more). Still, what's up with Wells Fargo? Developing...

Update of July 26, 2004: Last week the American Banker newspaper, reporting on SunTrust’s announcement in response to ICP’s presentation of UCC filings similar to those on Wells, correctly reported that ICP is "especially critical of Wells' financing of payday lenders that target military service members... Wells Fargo, according to Uniform Commercial Code filings in Nevada, finances Armed Forces Loans Inc. [That's the connection reported here two weeks ago]. Wells Fargo said that it carefully vets its borrowers. 'We have lending relationships with many financial institutions including consumer finance companies,' a spokeswoman said. "In these relationships we require representations and warranties as well as loan covenants requiring that the company comply with applicable laws and regulations.'" So high cost payday loans to active duty soldiers -- of the type denounced by base commands and even last week in the Senate by deputy undersecretary of defense Charles Abell -- these pass Wells Fargo's "carefully vetting"? Outrageous.

While we await a more meaningful response by Wells Fargo, note this: on April 19, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage admitted that it was investigating the theft of a laptop computer containing consumer information, including the names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of thousands of customers who applied for mortgages. The laptop was taken from a rental car left by two employees, with the keys in the ignition, near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. It isn't the first public embarrassment for Wells Fargo. Last fall, a banking unit announced the theft of a computer from a Concord, Calif. office, which contained more than 200,000 names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and personal line of credit account numbers.

Update of July 19, 2004: Wells Fargo’s funding of payday lending, including the military-targeting Armed Forces Loans, was raised to the Federal Reserve and its chairman last week, by ICP. When first asked about the Fed’s duty to consider applicant banks’ connections with high-cost lenders, the Chairman says that if the Fed has its druthers, it would stamp out predatory lending... So as a test case, the Chairman being told of Wells Fargo’s funding of Armed Forces Loans, which targets active-duty service-members for high-cost loans. The Chairman nods; his staffer take a print-out of the evidence. Now what? More is detailed in this week’s Inner City Press Fed Watch Report (click here to view.

Update of July 12, 2004: Wells Fargo's enabling of predatory fringe finance is the subject of a new report by Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch. ICP has identified dozens of payday and car title lenders which are financed by Wells Fargo. Perhaps the worst is Wells’ funding of a payday lender whose focus is soldiers: Armed Forces Loans, Inc., of 3824 South Jones, Las Vegas, Nevada. Here are a sample dirty dozen financed by Wells Fargo:

EXPRESS TITLE & PAYDAY LOANS, INC. of 1131 WARREN LANE, VERNON HILLS, ILLINOIS 60061, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., according to an Illinois Uniform Commercial Code filing

EZ PAWN HOLDINGS, INC., of 1901 CAPITAL PARKWAY, AUSTIN, TX 78746 (financed by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., as recently as April 13, 2004, according to Uniform Commercial Code filings);

ADVANCE AMERICA CASH ADVANCE CENTERS, headquartered as 135 NORTH CHURCH STREET, SPARTANBURG, SC 29306, multiply financed by Wells Fargo, including in 2004;




AUTO PAWN, INC. of 7534 HICKMAN RD, DES MOINES, IA 50322, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK IOWA, N.A., according to Iowa UCC records;

PAYDAY LOANS III, L.L.C. in Idado, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A.


1 STOP CHECK CASHING $ PAYDAY & TITLE LOANS, LLC, financed by WELLS FARGO BANK, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, according to a May 6, 2004, Arizona UCC filing



and, again, ARMED FORCES LOANS INC. of 3824 S JONES STE G, LAS VEGAS, NV 89103...

This is being raised, including to the Federal Reserve; developing...

Update of June 14, 2004: Alongside the other Wells Fargo Financial news last week, the actual Maryland Commission on Human Relations subpoena on WFF was interesting. Among other things, it asks for "any and all underwriting guidelines, policies and standards of WFF applicable to applications for loans secured by residential real estate (owner occupied) in the State of Maryland at any time during the period of January 1, 2002 to the present."

Update of June 1, 2004: Loving sleaze of any kind, Wells last week bought disgraced mutual fund company Strong Financial Corporation, for $500 million...

Update of May 17, 2004: Wells keeps chewing up insurance agencies, most recently in Dayton, Ohio, the Baldwin & Whitney Insurance Agency., swallowed by Wells' Acordia, which lists itself as the world's sixth largest insurance brokerage, with more than 150 offices in 38 states and premiums worth $6.5 billion. Much of this business, by the way, is sleazy...

Update of May 10, 2004: Who knew? Wells Fargo Financial, the subprime lender, has a basketball team in Guam. The Pacific Daily News of Hagatna, Guam, on May 3 reported that Wells Fargo Financial got some big help from its big men to win 58-43. Wells Fargo Financial power forward Conrad Berg had 17 points." Fast break for predatory lending! Including, as ICP asserted and is tracking, Wells' export of predatory lending...

Update of May 3, 2004: at the shareholders' meeting last week, Wells CEO Dickie the K at least had to respond to the predatory lending issues, even if this response consisted of adamant and repeated denials...

Update of April 26, 2004: Last week, ICP attended and raised predatory lending issues at Citigroup's annual shareholders' meeting (click here to view ICP's report). Similar question are on the agenda for AIG's annual meeting. This week in San Francisco, Wells Fargo's shareholders are meeting, to vote among other things as Item Six on a resolution that would merely provides that the "Board conduct a special executive compensation review to study ways of linking executive compensation to successfully addressing predatory lending practices." Wells Fargo is recommending that shareholders vote against the proposal, claiming that it already has anti-predatory lending policies in place (using an absurdly narrow definition of predatory lending, from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which has "enhanced" the national bank charter with laxity and preemption). But nothing is said -- neither in the proponent's statement nor Wells Fargo's response -- about whether even Wells' weak U.S. "safeguards" apply to its lending outside of the U.S.. We think not... ICP posed this question directly, at the Citigroup shareholders' meeting (again, click here to view ICP's report); we'd hope Wells will be made to answer it in San Francisco...

Update of April 19, 2004: Quiet but greedy: it turns out that Dick Kovacevich is the seventh highest paid CEO, when one cumulates salary and cashing in stock options and incentives, at a whopping. $35.9 million...

Update of April 12, 2004: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage's manager for the Dakotas, Conley Ruud, was hard-selling loans last week, gushing that "It still is a good time to get in on the low rates, whether you're looking to buy your first home or trade up to a larger home. It makes sense to do it now, while rates are really good. It's a no-brainer." When asked for his volume, the response was that Wells Fargo does not release numbers of mortgages processed...

Update of April 5, 2004: Wells-o-rama: The ruling In re Willard, Paul and Julie, 14 CBN 274 (Bankr. D. Nev. 2004) -- The bankruptcy court sanctioned a national mortgage company and its local counsel for filing an inaccurate motion for stay relief and then not acting promptly to correct their mistake. What it means: Creditors may be held responsible for not providing accurate information to their counsel and then not cooperating with debtors to correct the mistakes caused by that inaccurate information. Summary: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc. asked the bankruptcy court to lift the automatic stay because the debtors, who filed for Chapter 13 relief on Jan. 2, 1999, had missed payments due for May, June and July 2003. Subsequently, the lender's counsel acknowledged that a mistake had been made and that the missing payments were for September 2001 and December 2002. The debtors provided the lender's attorney with copies of the checks used to make these payments and notified counsel that they would seek Rule 9011 sanctions if the motion to lift the stay was not withdrawn within 21 days. The motion was withdrawn, but it took 24 days. The court sanctioned the lender's attorney 4,900 for not amending the motion as soon as he became aware of the error and for not withdrawing it as soon as he was offered proof of the debtors' payment. The court sanctioned Wells Fargo 25,000 for showing a "complete disregard for their duty to borrowers."

Update of March 29, 2004: Wells has amended its SEC filing to admit that it contributed $41,350 in corporate funds to various political entities and candidates in 2003. Fancy footwork, in advance of the annual shareholders' meeting... Moving to take over Wells Fargo's Nebraska operations is Terry Zink, who last week was quoted that ""The challenge is to let people know that we're more than a bank." Yeah -- Wells is a predatory lender, too.. Zink also said that he "supervised banks spread around several Los Angeles suburbs, a region that he said lacks a sense of community." But that's not what he said while in California... Typical Wells duplicity.

Update of March 22, 2004: Wells, home of the lost laptop with customer data, has now been hit with two concerted "phishing" campaigns in the last week. In a press release, Wells says it's "in no way involved in the distribution of this hoax e-mail" and as a policy would never ask for private customer information by e-mail. Wendy Grover, senior vice president of corporate communication at Wells Fargo, said the company is working with local authorities to handle the matter and has instructed bankers to follow normal bank procedure in dealing with fraud by closing any accounts that are impacted...

Update of March 15, 2004: More on Wells' subprime auto loans: on March 11, Fitch rated Wells Fargo Financial Auto Owner Trust 2004-A asset-backed notes, stating that "the 2004-A transaction marks Wells Fargo Financial, Inc.'s (WFF) first securitization. The 2004-A notes are backed by a pool of subprime retail installment sales contracts secured by new and used automobiles and light duty trucks"...

Update of March 8, 2004: On March 5, Wells Fargo Financial Retail Services announced with scanty details that it "will a provide a private-label credit card program for Gallery Furniture, a Houston-based retailer that sells more than $150 million in furniture annually. The program will include a dedicated line of credit for Gallery Furniture customers that promotes greater shopping frequency." Sort of like with Wells Fargo Financial's own flipped loans -- the more frequent the churning, t he more profitable...

Update of March 1, 2004: How 'bout high cost auto lending? It's another of Wells Fargo's businesses. According to Reuters, Wells was "readying a bond pooling nonprime auto loans worth $500 million, market sources said on Monday [Feb. 23]. This is Wells Fargo's first non-prime auto loan bond, sources said. The offering, Wells Fargo Financial Auto 2004-A, has Citigroup and Deutsche Bank Securities as lead managers"...

Update of February 23, 2004: from Inner City Press' Wells Fargo mailbag:

To: WellsWatch [at] InnerCityPress.org

I thought I was the only one Wells Fargo has victimized but from reading the articles on your site, I can see I'm not alone. At present, Wells Fargo is foreclosing on my home... I was behind on my payments, but have since caught up. They have my money and are still attempting to foreclose on my home... Wells Fargo advised me to reinstate the loan I need to pay over $9,000... Plus their attorney is trying to gouge me with their fees again.

Update of February 16, 2004: While anti-predatory lending laws are being preempted and / or abandoned in the continental United States, in Guam an interesting proposal is moving forward: Bill 173, introduced by Sen. Rory Respicio, D-Chalan Pago, would amend and update the property attachment and execution exemption law. It states that a debtor's homestead are exempt from seizure for the claims of creditors. It also lists personal property exemptions, including furniture, tools and books used for work, clothes, two firearms, and motor vehicles for each member of a family. The bill is being opposed by industry, including U.S.-based subprime lender Wells Fargo Financial. It is now pending in the Committee on Judiciary and Transportation... If Wells Fargo can export predatory lending, consumer protection, too, must be exported... Meanwhile, the search for the truth about Wells Fargo continues. Last week, Inner City Press filed a Freedom of Information Act appeal with the Federal Reserve Board in DC of the FRB's decision that, regarding Wells Fargo, "547 full pages and portions of other pages will be withheld from you." ICP has re-requested numerous purportedly "Confidential" Exhibits - "Question 5 - Exhibit 1" (regarding relationships with subprime lenders); "Question 6 - Exhibit 1" (regarding overrides); "Question 8 - Exhibit 1" ("Store bulletins" regarding credit insurance sales); "Question 9 - Exhibits 1-4;" "Question 10 - Exhibit 1" ("Deferred Origination Fee Waiver Policy," etc);

"Question 11 - Exhibits 1-13;" "Question 12 - Exhibit 1" (regarding Wells' supposed "Tangible Net Benefits Test"); "Question 16 - Exhibit 1" (regarding Wells' own payday lending) and "Question 17 - Exhibit 1" (Wells relations with other payday lenders), etc.. The results of this FOIA appeal will be report on this site, upon receipt..

Update of February 9, 2004: from the mailbag:

Subj: My Wells Fargo account

Date: 2/6/04 5:29:35 PM Eastern Standard Time

From: [Name withheld]

To: WellsWatch [at] innercitypress.org

...I began receiving an almost daily series of phone calls. Because the message started once my phone picked up the call, all I was able to hear was a phone number and not much else. About a week later, I finally called the number, found out it was Wells Fargo calling, and kept on the line. It was virtually impossible to reach a human, but I was able to do so eventually. The person on the phone asked me to verify my information, then proceeded to ask me a series of what I considered to be harassing questions (i.e., "Are you living in the mortgaged property and do you plan to keep it?"). Eventually I was able to pin the person down, and all this was about a (by then) 26 day late payment. I asked for the exact address to which I should send the payment, and the next day overnighted it from my place of employment.

Imagine my shock on Feb. 5, over a week later, to find another phone call on my machine from guess who? I called and they had never posted the payment to my account! On my electronic banking, I was able to see that indeed the check had been cashed the very next day, and that it was received at the address I sent it to. I was virtually forced to do an electronic payment because they threatened foreclosure on my mortgage. They did say they would open a trace on the first check I sent, and I was to call the next day (today).

I called this morning and they would not give me any information, saying that it was still an "open investigation." So then I went in to a local branch here, and finally I was able to get someone to say that they were posting the first check and that everything would be straightened out by Monday. So, all this to ask a question: To whom do I write to register my complaint?

Our interim answer: write to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which claims to be on top of Wells Fargo's mortgage company, and all other national banks and their operating subsidiaries... Fax (according to the OCC's web site) to 713-336-4301 -- and let us know what happens next...

Update of February 2, 2004: Among the documents belatedly provided to Inner City Press by the Federal Reserve are a series of e-mails, in August 2003, from Wells Fargo's Bruce U. Morland to the Department of Justice and to Fed staffers -- communications that Wells Fargo should have, but did not, provide to ICP and other (antitrust) commenters. Ah, transparency...

Update of January 26, 2004: Last week Wells CFO Howie Atkins denied that Wells sees a need to do a big deal (i.e., Wachovia), but rather will continue to focus on smaller deals, like 2003's of Pacific Northwest Bancorp take-over. Regarding that deal, the Federal Reserve is only now getting around to ruling on ICP's FOIA appeal -- the documents, they say, are coming...

Update of January 20, 2004: Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the nation's largest mortgage lender, said that since mid-December "a couple dozen people" have received notices they would be laid off in 60 days. The West Des Moines-based company would not say how many temporary workers have been let go. It would say only that it "made incremental changes" among that work force more than 60 days ago. --from the Des Moines Register's intrepid S.P. Dinnen.

Update of January 12, 2004: following the Comptroller of the Currency's preemption order last week, the Hartford Courant caught Wells Fargo gloating: its spokeswoman Janis Smith mouthed the pabulum that "A patchwork of inconsistent rules passed by states and municipalities is not in the best interest of either consumers or businesses." Yep, let's count on Wells Fargo Financial (and CitiFinancial, Chase and Household) to tell us about consumers' best interests...

Update of January 5, 2004: In the run-up to Christmas, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage announced that it would lay off 170 people who process, underwrite and close home loans and refinancings, from its operations center in Riverside, California...

Update of December 29, 2003: the SF Chronicle of Dec. 23 notes that Wells Fargo, too, says it has "received queries from regulators" in the mutual fund scandal probe... Happy holidays.

Update of December 22, 2003: in the San Francisco Chronicle of Dec. 21, David Lazarus asks some good questions:

In light of the recent theft and subsequent recovery of a computer containing sensitive information on thousands of Wells Fargo customers nationwide, people doing business with the bank have every right to be asking: Why did Wells hand the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of so many customers to an outside consultant? Why was that consultant permitted to store such information on a computer in his office, located in an unlocked commercial suite adjacent to a Concord sports bar? What lessons has the San Francisco bank learned about outsourcing customer data? At this point, Wells Fargo is saying little more than "no comment."

That's not going to cut it...

Update of December 15, 2003: According to the National Mortgage News of Dec. 8, of the top ten subprime lenders, Wells Fargo's production rose fastest, by 137%, comparing the third quarter of 2003 to the previous year... Meanwhile, we reiterate: Bank of America securitized Wells Fargo's subprime loans. How and who will address this, in the Bank of America-Fleet proceeding, remains to be seen...

Update of December 8, 2003: Wells' corporate welfare is not limited to Des Moines or even to Iowa: take Springfield, Illinois, for example, where Wells Fargo Home Mortgage has broken ground for an office building. Wells is getting government "assistance," including $350,000 in motor fuel tax funds...

Update of December 1, 2003: earlier this year, Inner City Press reported on Wells Fargo's quiet attempts to export its subprime (and predatory) lending outside of the U.S.. Well, the Toronto Star of Nov. 25, 2003, now reports that Wells "has a presence in Canada with Trans Canada Credit Corp., a high-interest consumer loan company that offers mortgages to those with a poor credit rating. Now Wells Fargo has branched out in Canada with a new division called HomePlan Mortgage that will do business with a focus on those who would be rejected by a bank. It will accept business from mortgage brokers starting tomorrow. Maurice (Moe) Forget, vice-president and general manager, told the annual conference of the Canadian Institute of Mortgage Brokers and Lenders yesterday that HomePlan will lend up to 85 per cent of a home's value one year after a discharge from bankruptcy, and 100 per cent after two years... Forget won hoots of approval from brokers when he announced the loans for the recently bankrupt, or at least those who have re-established a record of repaying smaller loans."

Moe Forget - you can't make this stuff up... The American Banker of Dec. 1, 2003, says that ICP-published novel Predatory Bender "blend[s] the images of companies such as Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. One section reads: 'While ostensibly the fruit of three decades of community struggle, the land beneath the mall was owned by Anguilla-based EmpiBank. The anchor tenant, too, was a part of Empi's empire: a storefront office in the high-rate lender EmpiFinancial. Jack Bender had worked for EmpiBank on the outskirts of Charlotte, North Carolina, the so-called Queen City.'" -- yep... To those two you could add Wells Fargo Financial -- practices like its are described in both the novel and the afterword.... Click here for more.

Update of November 24, 2003: our question this week is, who knew that Wells Fargo securitized its subprime loans through Bank of America? This is detailed in Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch's comment to the Federal Reserve on BofA-Fleet (click here to view); some of the deals are:

CIK Company State

SIC: 6189 - Asset-Backed Securities

SIC: 6189 - Asset-Backed Securities



ABFC is Asset Backed Funding Corporation, 100% owned by Bank of America... In corporate welfare follow-up news, for Wells Fargo Financial's planned nine-story building in downtown Des Moines (north side of Walnut Street between Eighth and Ninth streets), "[t][he city is prepared to put up more than $10 million in assistance over 20 years." That's a lot of money, to host a predatory lender...

Update of November 17, 2003: talk about grassroots -- in Greensboro, NC, Wells Fargo Financial will open another predatory -- oops! subprime -- lending office, in the "Granite's Shoppes at Wendover Village." Yuck. Meanwhile, state-by-state action on predatory lending, including Wells', is addressed in this new ICP map, which may be of use during the BofA-Fleet process -- click here to view and use.

Update of November 10, 2003: Discrimination by Wells Fargo Financial is not only by race, ethnicity and gender -- on Nov. 3, the EEOC announced a settlement in an age-discrimination lawsuit against Wells Fargo Financial Texas. After EEOC-initiated mediation failed, the federal agency filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, in June...

Update of November 3, 2003: Barron's of November 3 lists, as possible Wells Fargo targets, the following three banks: Suntrust, Bank One, and PNC. Regarding this last, see ICP's Bank Beat report....

Update of October 27, 2003: Wells Fargo's earnings announcement last week included this: that revenue at its subprime (and, separately, predatory) unit Wells Fargo Financial rose by 20% compared to the 3rd quarter of 2002; operating profit was up 32% to $121 million. Gouging is profitable...

Update of October 20, 2003: in the Federal Reserve's Wells Fargo Orders last week, the Fed acknowledges disparities in Wells Fargo's lending to African Americans and Latinos - higher than aggregate denial rate disparities, and low penetration rates in "minority" census tracts. Order at 15. But the Order dodges the fee-gouging issues (note 18), and, in dealing with WFF and Island Finance, expects the commenters to show the full range of interest rates (rather than having asked Wells Fargo for that information). So we'll be pursuing it...

Update of October 13, 2003: at the Consumer Banker Association's Fair Lending Conference, the associate general counsel of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, Heidi Mason, pontificated that "If you don't proactively manage relationships, you will be liable, especially in the court of public opinion." Mason said there are "checklists available all over the place" that detail red flags, such as litigation and complaints filed against a company. "Make sure you have fair lending policies and add these to your agreements with third parties... Controls and monitoring are important, too," Mason said, noting that lenders should establish policies governing maximum broker compensation and loan origination fees, total fees and the types of fees that can be charged. All very nice sounding -- but not consistent with the policies of Wells Fargo Financial, not in the U.S. and even less so overseas...

Update of October 6, 2003: we'll be back on the Wells - corporate welfare beat -- but last week, we obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request summaries of some complaints against Wells Fargo Financial (in the below, the "Company," with addresses including Des Moines, Edina MN, Sioux Falls SD, including:

- "company calls and harasses consumer at work and consumer has asked company to stop calling them at work;"

- "Consumer received payment notices for an account he knows nothing about;"

- "Consumer sent the company a check to pay off their loan and close the account. Company did not close the account;"

- "Consumer co-signed on a vehicle and the company repossessed it without written notice, while consumer was current on payments;"

- "Company tried to convince consumer to take out another loan and she said no. Consumer says the company deposited money in her account anyway;"

- "Consumer took out a loan with the company and used her vehicle as collateral and gave the company the title to her vehicle. Consumer has paid off the loan but the company is given her the runaround on returning her title;" etc..

What's striking in all this is how the predatory problems at Wells Fargo go well beyond mortgages (and, as detailed below on this page, beyond the United States)....

Update of September 29, 2003: More on Wells and corporate welfare -- and, this time, the Federal Home Loan Bank System providing property to a predatory lender. It was reported on September 22, "the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines said it may consider selling another piece of property in the same block [of downtown Des Moines] to Wells Fargo." Wells is "looking at possible locations for expanding its nationwide consumer finance unit, which has headquarters in downtown Des Moines." Wells has lined it up to "receive about $20 million in incentives from state agencies if it builds in the Des Moines area. The company is seeking an additional $25 million in incentives from West Des Moines, mostly in the form of the city paying for extending streets, water lines and sewer lines to a new office complex. Officials have said that if Wells Fargo Financial expands in downtown, Des Moines would be expected to provide additional incentives, probably in the form of employee parking." (Predatory lenders need parking, mind you -- but from the Federal Home Loan Bank System?) "The downtown property acquired last week is directly across Walnut Street from the $90 million addition completed last year at Wells Fargo Financial's headquarters... The 91-year-old building, called the Davidson Building, houses Schaffer's Bridal & Formal Shop and a handful of small businesses. The building is assessed for tax purposes at $524,500. A parking lot owned by Federal Home Loan Bank is immediately west of the Davidson Building... Nicky Schissel, a spokeswoman for the [FHLBDM], said 'there have been conversations with the city' about turning the bank property between Eighth and Ninth streets over to Wells Fargo for development." Well(s), developing...

Update of September 22, 2003: Wells Fargo and corporate welfare: by threatening to leave to an unnamed state, Wells managed to corral over 40% of Iowa's statewide Department of Transportation's RISE grant allotment. RISE stands for Revitalize Iowa's Sound Economy, but it sounds like it's Wells' economy that's being revitalized. The money would be used to pay for a new section of 74th Street and improvements to Grand Avenue that will provide access to the proposed new Wells Fargo campus south of I-80 and west of I-35. The project has a total cost of $13.8 million, the remaining $3.9 million of which would be provided by the city through the issuance of tax increment financing (TIF) bonds. Wells claims that another state is "competing" to gets a new Wells Fargo Financial back office... Wells shakes down municipalities like WFF shakes down customers, it seems...

Update of September 15, 2003: speaking late at the Lehman Brothers financial industry shin-dig September 8, Dick Kovacevic sang a song of Wells Fargo Financial:

Wells Fargo Financial -- our consumer finance company -- was the crowned jewel of Norwest in the 80's and early 90's. Their growth slowed in the 90's and earning fell in 1997 and 1998 because of a planned pull back in their business due primarily to irrational competition. A new management team and focus in late 1999 began a turn around for the company... In the past, Financial focused too much on their higher ROI unsecured lending business, and gave up growth opportunities in the lower ROI, but faster growing real estate and auto secured (ph) lending segment... Our focus is selling all the financial products our customer needs or cross selling... For consumer households that we sell them two products we make on average of about $200 a year. If we sell that same customer nine or more products we make $872 a year... Part of our effort is simply getting existing Wells Fargo customers to buy from us what they're already buying from other providers.

Yeah-- like loan sharks.

Update of September 8, 2003: In a September 4 response to additional Federal Reserve questions, Wells Fargo among other things prevaricated thus: "Wells Fargo Financial "does not classify credit as prime or subprime as a factor in setting APRs. However, the vast majority of WFF's real estate loans are to customers who would typically be characterized by others as subprime." Wells then describes providing some of WFF's customers with the phone number of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage -- but claims those cold referrals are based on the product requests (i.e., no cash out), not on credit score. So the obvious next question: does WFF offer a prime product? Or, to deal with Wells evasion, does WFF offer a product which "would typically be characterized by others as subprime"?

Squib of September 1, 2003: Ah, Wells... On August 26, Wells vaguely announced, without specifics, a proposal to acquire Benson Associates LLC, a institutional money manager with $1.3 billion of equity assets under management for "undisclosed terms."

Update of August 25, 2003: No response yet from the Federal Reserve on the Freedom of Information Act appeal for what Wells Fargo is trying to withhold. In the interim, we've noticed yet another way in which Wells' "Island Finance" has even weaker compliance programs than Wells Fargo Financial. In response to a Fed question for subprime lending volume data by product, Wells Fargo has stated that "[b]ecause Island does not track volume along product lines these numbers are not broken down in that fashion." This statement is not made for Wells Fargo Financial...

Update of August 18, 2003: the Federal Reserve has asked Wells Fargo a number of questions about its community reinvestment and fair lending performance, particularly about its subprime lending operations. On July 21 and July 25, ICP raised issues to the Fed concerning a particularly Wells subprime subsidiary, based in Puerto Rico and active within and outside of the United States, named Island Finance. On July 31, the Fed asked Wells seventeen questions, including "[d]escribe in detail Wells Fargo's corporate programs to monitor compliance with the fair lending and consumer protection laws and regulations... Include in your response a description of any policies, procedures, and practices with respect to... complaints," by subsidiary.

In its August 11 response, Wells states that "Island Finance does not have a specialized customer service department or a toll-free telephone number for complaints. Customers who have complaints contact the store handling their account. If the store is unable to resolve the complaint the complaint if referred to the district manager. If the district manager is unable to resolve the complaint it is referred [to] the district manager's supervisor."

That Island Finance has even less consumer protection safeguards that Wells Fargo Financial's overall operations is significant -- and potentially violative of the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act, given the demographics of Island Finance's headquarters and its lending operations. ICP has now raised this to the Fed. Wells has also requested "confidential treatment" for large portions of its response, which ICP has now re-requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Developing...

Update of August 11, 2003: Wells Fargo is becoming used to getting kicked around, being confronted with detailed tales of predatory lending... So, in its August 7 response to the Federal Reserve to ICP's comments, Wells summarized that "ICP references... customer examples," and then states:

"It is Wells Fargo's policy to deal directly with customers on any issues that may arise in their relationship with us. We have a long-standing policy and process for responding to customers who have complaints. We research those complaints carefully and as promptly as possible and if we have erred, we do what is right for the customer. Due to financial privacy concerns, we cannot and do not discuss our customers' financial matters with nonparties to the transactions."

Which is a fancy way of saying, "We're not going to answer, nya nya, nya"...

Update of August 4, 2003: Here's been Wells Fargo's response, to date: a Wells spokesperson named Christie Drumm said (in a monotone, presumably) that "the allegations are without merit" (that's from the Rocky Mountain News); to the L.A. Times, an unnamed Wells spokesman was even more evasive, pointing to Wells' banks' CRA ratings when a main issue is Wells' non-bank finance company. The LA Times reported (correctly) that "Inner City Press maintained, Wells Fargo is 'exporting these practices' to the Caribbean through Island Finance, a Puerto Rican consumer-finance lender it owns." Wells' outgoing general counsel Stanley Stroup mailed in a letter purporting to respond to the issues ICP has raised -- but it limited itself, for now, to ICP's initial letter which asked for an extension of the comment period. And Wells' response on the predatory lending issues, including those beyond the continental 48 states?

ICP's July 25, 2003 comment:

July 25, 2003

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Attn: Chairman Alan Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson
20th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20551

Re: The applications of Wells Fargo & Co. to acquire (1) Pacific Northwest Bancorp & Pacific Northwest Bank, Seattle, Washington AND (2) Two Rivers Corp. & Bank of Grand Junction, Grand Junction, Colorado

Dear Chairman Greenspan, Governors, Secretary Johnson, et al.:

On behalf of Inner City Press/Community on the Move and its members and affiliates, and the Fair Finance Watch (collectively, "ICP"), this is a second timely comment in opposition to the applications of Wells Fargo & Co. and its affiliates ("Wells Fargo") to acquire Two Rivers Corp. & Bank of Grand Junction, Grand Junction, Colorado ("Two Rivers"), and Pacific Northwest Bancorp & Pacific Northwest Bank, Seattle, Washington ("Pacific Northwest"). ICP initially commented on both applications on July 21, and asked for an extension of the Two Rivers comment period; on July 22, ICP received phone message from Board staff extending the Two Rivers comment period until July 25.

Beyond the 2001 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act ("HMDA") analysis, citations to the public record on Wells' ties to payday lenders, etc., in the July 21 comment, and while continuing to await the FRB's too-slow release of the 2002 HMDA data, this submission directs the FRB to certain of Wells Fargo's subprime-lending affiliates, particularly those operating standardlessly outside of the continental United States, in Canada, Panama and elsewhere. First, a sample consumer abuse by Wells Fargo in the U.S., based on messages directed to ICP, and documents annexed hereto:

In a message dated 5/28/03 10:07:14 PM Eastern Daylight Time, [ ] @bellsouth.net writes: [to ICP's Wells Watch]


Are you aware of anyone having problems with Wells Fargo giving false information to credit bureaus. I have had them for two years now, have never had a late payment and yet they are reporting that I have 8 late payments (4 of which are 90 day lates) I have been trying since the first of January to fix this and I am getting nowhere....


In a message dated 7/22/03 6:56:44 PM Eastern Daylight Time, [ ] @bellsouth.net writes:

...They say because I am in bankruptcy that they have to report it in a special way, that they are not reporting me late at all but the credit report has lates all over it. I have had a perfect payment history for two years and yet I am now refinancing at higher rate because they have all of those lates on my report. Every time I get it corrected with the bureaus I have to wait a couple of months but I just get more new lates from Wells. They have sent me a payment history showing I have not had any lates but again by the time I get that to the bureaus I have new lates on my report. I will see what I can fax...

And see attached, which we are asking the FRS to act on. See also,

Subj: Wells Fargo Bank
Date: 7/11/03 9:25:55 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: [Jeffrey W.]
To: [WellsWatch at] innercitypress.org

Hello, I noticed [your work] regarding Wells Fargo Bank. I am enclosing a copy of a letter that I am sending to the bank. If you have any questions, please contact me. Thanks.

July 11, 2003
Mr. Alan Johnson, President
Oregon and Washington Region
Wells Fargo Home Equity
Post Office Box 4233
Portland, OR 97208-4233

Re: Complaint, Fraud and Abusive Billing Practices

Dear Mr. Johnson:

I am writing to complain about Wells Fargo's deceptive home equity operations. To give you some background: I had a home equity loan with Wells Fargo for several years. I paid the loan off in January 2003 because of very poor customer relations.

These relations culminated in a phone conversation with a representative of your bank when she told me she could not provide the figures to quote me the amount of interest in dollars that I would be paying over the future of the loan. I was told that it "was a complicated formula and I would have to figure it out myself".

Since I have paid the loan off, I have been besieged with offers from your company to reopen the loan; I have refused all offers to deal business with your company. Over the past several months, I have been receiving a monthly bill from your company for $50.00. There is no explanation on the bill for this charge.

When I called your very rude employees, I was told this was my charge for a "home equity access fee". When I explained that I did not want this service, I was told I would have to send a fax to your company telling them in writing that I did not want this service. They would not do this via phone message.

Mr. Johnson, isn't it a bit ridiculous to have to send a letter or fax telling a company that you do not want a service that you never requested in the first place? A service that I am currently being charged $50.00 monthly? What if other companies were to adopt this same practice? I work in the healthcare industry; we do not send indiscriminate bills out to our patients, with a caveat of requesting they notify us in writing if they do not want this service.

So here is it in writing: I do not want this service, I do not wish to do business with Wells Fargo, ever again. Please purge me from your mailing, e-mail and telephone call listings. I would also like a written explanation as to why this policy exists within your organization. Thank you.


Jeffrey W.

CC: Inner City Press

And see attached, which we are asking the FRS to act on.

ICP first became aware of Wells Fargo's subprime lender Island Finance in 1997, when the company (1) opened an office at 2866 Third Avenue in the South Bronx which charged 25% interest rates to all customers, without regard to credit history, then (2) closed the office and required the customers they'd lured to travel to a Wells Fargo Financial office in Queens or have "lates" imposed on their credit history (see supra, and see Village Voice of July 15, 1997).

Wells' Island Finance is (sub-) headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has branches in Panama, Aruba, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Netherlands Antilles. It is a high-rate lender, and is also embroiled in litigation with its employees. See, e.g., Jagroop v. Island Fin. V.I., Inc., (U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Island, Division of St. Croix), 240 F. Supp. 2d 370; 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25153. Tellingly, Wells CEO Dick Kovacevich lobbied in person in May 2002 against a proposal in the Puerto Rican legislature, House Bill 1288, to impose a usury cap of 19.75%. See, Caribbean Business, May 16, 2002, quoting 27% interest rates and Kovacevich that, with the proposed rate cap, " I feel I’m being told Wells Fargo is not welcome in Puerto Rico... I don’t want to be threatening, just factual," and characterizing Wells as the U.S.'s "number one 'NAFTA bank,' with more banking stores and assets than any competitor within 60 miles of Mexico and Canada." (As to Wells' high-rate lending in Canada, see infra). As Wells / Island showed in The Bronx, they charge rates right up to any applicable usury cap, without regard for the borrowers credit history profile -- that is, NOT pricing by risk.

In acquiring Island Finance, Kovacevich said that it portended further "expansion into other Latin American markets." (PR Newswire of May 4, 1995.) Subsequently, Wells also acquired a consumer finance company in Argentina, Finvercon S.A. Compania Financiera , which resulted in litigation: see, 86 F. Supp. 2d 212. At the time, Wells stated that one-quarter of its WFF consumer finance stores "is outside the 50 U.S. states," noting that it had recently also "acquired Reliable Financial Services, Inc., an auto finance company headquartered in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, which manages $200 million in receivables." (PR Newswire of January 12, 1998.) Wells also lists "Island Finance" subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, British West Indies, and in Trinidad and Tobago, and operates under the name "Financiera el Sol" in Panama. [FN: It also appears that Wells / Island operate as "Credisol" in Costa Rica. While WFC's 2000 10-K lists, for WFF, offices in Brazil, Hong Kong and Taiwan, there's no further mention of these stealth, presumably high-rate consumer finance operations.]

Wells Fargo is also engaged in controversial high-rate finance in Canada, under the brand name Trans Canada Credit. In New York, Wells' Island Finance charged 25% interest because that is the usury cap. In Canada, Wells' " Trans Canada Credit charges 28.9 per cent interest." See, Hamilton Spectator, June 26, 2003, Pg. C2, " Buy Now / Pay Later Plans Can Become Costly," recounting the following sample Wells loan:

The first thing Labatte did receive appeared to be a credit card statement, showing a limit of $4,150, a billing date of Jan. 23 and a due date of Feb. 23. It stated no minimum payment was owed. Two more monthly statements followed, but Labatte claimed no statements arrived in April or May. He and his spouse both worked and failed to notice the six-month deferment period had expired. By the time they started making inquiries, a representative of Trans Canada Credit informed them they'd missed the deadline for their "no-interest" offer and now owed approximately $600 in interest payments, dating back to the original date of purchase in November 2002.

In fact, Wells' Trans Canada Credit charges 30% interest annually -- but misleading consumers by quoting it monthly: "Having trouble managing your credit card debt? Perhaps I could interest you in a consolidation loan at a mere 2.5%. Sound good? Not if the rate is 2.5% per month, or a whopping 30% per annum. Yet with interest rates at a 41-year low, and prime sitting at 3.75%, I was surprised to find Trans Canada Credit pitching me such a loan recently as part of a mass mailing. To Trans Canada's credit (pardon the pun), they didn't trumpet a rate of 2.5% on their mailing. But when I phoned to get some idea of the interest rate, I was quoted 2.5% a month." See, Toronto Sun, January 20, 2002, Pg. 55, "A Costly House of Cards;" see also, Toronto Star, April 6, 2000, "High-Cost Payday Loans Prey on the Vulnerable."

Beyond Wells' enabling of payday lending in the United States -- see, e.g., Business Wire of June 11, 2002, in which the payday lender Dollar Financial Group announced an amendment to its credit agreement with Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. -- Wells owns (at least) the following insurance companies [string cite omitted] and Centurion Life Ins. Co. (MO) The last of these is described in A.M. Best's most recent company report as benefiting "from its parent's consumer lending business growth as it markets credit life and disability income products through nearly a thousand consumer finance offices of Wells Fargo." Wells in the U.S. also offers "single premium term life insurance," see, e.g., . Also problematic is Wells' Aman Collection Service, see, e.g., Jackson v. Aman Collection Serv., 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22238, U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division (collection letter could not be said to not violate the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, where it included only an unstated amount of accruing interest, and no date from which it accrued).

Wells' involvement in the subprime industry goes beyond its own lending, and encompasses its activities as master service, custodian and trustee (the latter two, mostly through Wells Fargo Bank Minneapolis). See, e.g., DLJ ABS Tr Mtg P-T Ctfs, Series 2000-3; DELTA FUNDING CORP HM EQ LN HEL SE 01 2 (Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, National Association, custodian).

Wells was willing to serve as trustee for Delta even during the period for which it was charged with predatory lending by government agencies; the same has continued, more recently, in connection with the loans of Household International's HFC. See, e.g., the May 2, 2003, Prospectus filing for STRUCTURED ASSET INVESTMENT LOAN TRUST, Mortgage Pass-Through Certificates, Series 2003-BC3: loans by, inter alia, HFC, "Trustee: Wells Fargo Bank Minnesota, National Association." What standards for Wells Fargo have for this business? Apparently none.

We also remain concerned about the weak (and we contend weakening) performance of Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank. The most-recent (yet outdated) CRA performance evaluation stated inter alia that Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank "demonstrates no use of innovative or complex qualified investments and community development services" -- a bad sign for a bank with a wholesale designation, whose "performance under the CRA was limited to qualified investments and community development services." Id. In terms of weak performance beyond CRA, see, e.g., the San Diego Business Journal of December 2, 2002, "Former Peregrine Manager Admits to Bank Fraud," reporting that "[a]ccording to Cappel's plea, she arranged the sale of a $ 19.5 million invoice from KPMG Consulting LLC to Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank on or about June 29, 2001. Cappel sold the receivable to the bank as if it was valid when it really wasn't 'because Peregrine had no valid contract with KPMG Consulting LLC at the time for that amount under those terms,' the plea stated." Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank's lack of due diligence is another indictor of weak performance that should be inquired into in this proceeding.

ICP continues to await the release of the 2002 HMDA data. As noted, in 2001, in the Denver MSA Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loan applications of African Americans a whopping 5.95 times more frequently than those of whites, substantially more disparate than other lenders in this market. Additionally in Denver, WFHM denied the refinance loan applications of African Americans 3.81 times more frequently than those of whites.

In the Seattle WA MSA in 2001, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loan applications of African Americans 5.55 times more frequently than those of whites, substantially more disparate than other lenders in this market. Additionally in Seattle, WFHM denied the refinance loan applications of African Americans 2.44 times more frequently than those of whites.

In light of the characterization of Wells as something of a "NAFTA bank," see supra, note that in 2001 in the Albuquerque, New Mexico MSA, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loans applications of Latinos 2.82 times more frequently than those of whites. In the Austin, Texas MSA, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loans applications of Latinos 3.50 times more frequently than those of whites (while also denying the applications of African Americans 2.71 times more frequently than whites). In the Houston MSA, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage denied the conventional home purchase loans applications of Latinos 3.01 times more frequently than those of whites (while also denying the applications of African Americans 3.84 times more frequently than whites).

These racial and ethnic disparities, and Wells' targeted high-rate lending, militate for public hearings, for enforcement actions and referrals, and for the denial of Wells Fargo's expansion proposals.

Communications regarding these proceedings, including Wells Fargo’s responses, any and all FRB communications with Wells Fargo, and the improperly withheld portions of the Applications, should be provided to the undersigned.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew R. Lee, Esq.
Executive Director
Inner City Public Interest Law Center
& Inner City Press/Community on the Move
1919 Washington Avenue
Bronx, New York 10457
Tel: 718-716-3540
Fax: 718-716-3161

NOTE: For or with more information, contact us. This will be updated; stay tuned...

Update of May 26, 2003: On May 20, Wells Fargo announced a proposal to buy Pacific Northwest Bancorp for $591 million. Then on May 22, Wells announced a smaller deal for Colorado's Two Rivers Corp., which owns the Bank of Grand Junction. It operates three branches around Grand Junction... Also on May 20, Wells announced that its general counsel Stanley Stroup will retire at the end of 2003. He "was very instrumental behind the scenes in helping break down (Great) Depression-era barriers among banking, brokerage and insurance industries," said Chairman and Chief Executive Dick Kovacevich in a press statement. "He also helped influence national legislation that created interstate banking." Well now. Jim Strother, a Wells Fargo deputy general counsel since June 2001, will replace him...

Update of May 5, 2003: The California Department of Corporations on May 2 announced it has revoked Wells Fargo's state mortgage lending license, for violating California law. "If consumers were particularly savvy, they (should) see that Wells was advertising our license, and that they were obtaining the same protections from Wells as from any other licensed lender," said the Department's Andre Pineda. "The simple fact is, in the last couple of years, a consumer who thought that would be wrong." California wants Wells Fargo to issue refunds to overcharged borrowers.

Update of January 13, 2003: It has been too long, since we've reported on Wells Fargo in this space. The trigger of this report is the state of California's Jan. 10 accusation that Wells is a predatory pricer. We agree, and now report the following: at Wells Fargo Financial, the company's subprime lender, the lowest fixed interest rate being offered is 11.5% -- regardless of the credit score of the applicant. Ironically, even an applicant with a sub-600 FICO score can, through Wells Fargo Mortgage's "non-conforming" division, receive a rate between eight and nine percent. The morale of the story? If you approach Wells through the storefront office of Wells Fargo Financial, you will be overcharged in a predatory fashion. We've also learned that when Wells Fargo Financial employees leave the company, they are told that if at their next employer they refinance any Wells Fargo loans, they will be sued for $2,000 for each loan. Pretty, ain't it?

Update of October 28, 2002: on October 24, Wells Fargo announced a proposal to buy Minneapolis-based Towle Financial Services/Midwest Inc., a mortgage banking company that originates and services mortgages for life insurance firms, pension funds, real estate investment trusts and others. Towle holds a loan portfolio of $260 million, according to a Wells spokesperson. Wells already has a $30 billion servicing portfolio....

Update of August 5, 2002: on July 31, Wells Fargo announced a deal to acquire " private investment advisory firm" Nelson Capital Management; financial terms weren't disclosed.

Update of February 18, 2002: From the department of "better late that never," Inner City Press has just received a response from the Department of Justice to a FOIA request regarding the Federal Reserve Board enforcement (or non-enforcement) of antitrust laws upon Wells Fargo and its predecessor, Norwest. Among the documents received is correspondence in which Wells Fargo tries to justify having shifted deposits out of branches it had committed to divest. Wells claims that "if any procedural lapses did occur" they were "inadvertent and isolated." The Fed staffers who apparently agreed include Scott Alvarez, Dean Amel and Gordon Miller. Who knows -- maybe Wells' argument are not as ludicrous as they look. It's impossible to judge, since the most substantive portions of the letters are still redacted, and since the Fed itself never provided these letters to ICP or anyone else, despite outstanding FOIA requests. This may have to be revisited in a future proceeding. Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.

Update of February 4, 2002: Wells and woods: an SEC filing made public on January 28 disclosed that Wells Fargo has dropped its stake in Willamette Industries Inc. three percentage points to 9.4 percent. After a 14-month takeover battle, last week Willamette tentatively accepted a $6.1 billion acquisition offer from its larger rival Weyerhaeuser Co....

For 2000-2002, click here. This will be updated. For or with more information, contact us.


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Friday, December 10, 2004   Saturday, December 11, 2004   Sunday, December 12, 2004   Monday, December 13, 2004   Tuesday, December 14, 2004   Wednesday, December 15, 2004   Thursday, December 16, 2004   Friday, December 17, 2004   Sunday, December 19, 2004   Monday, December 20, 2004   Friday, December 24, 2004   Saturday, December 25, 2004   Sunday, December 26, 2004   Wednesday, December 29, 2004   Thursday, December 30, 2004   Friday, December 31, 2004   Monday, January 03, 2005   Wednesday, January 05, 2005   Thursday, January 06, 2005   Saturday, January 08, 2005   Sunday, January 09, 2005   Tuesday, January 11, 2005   Wednesday, January 12, 2005   Thursday, January 13, 2005   Saturday, January 15, 2005   Wednesday, January 19, 2005   Friday, January 21, 2005   Saturday, January 22, 2005   Sunday, January 23, 2005   Monday, January 24, 2005   Wednesday, January 26, 2005   Thursday, January 27, 2005   Friday, January 28, 2005   Saturday, January 29, 2005   Monday, January 31, 2005   Thursday, February 03, 2005   Friday, February 04, 2005   Saturday, February 05, 2005   Sunday, February 06, 2005   Monday, February 07, 2005   Tuesday, February 08, 2005   Wednesday, February 09, 2005   Thursday, February 10, 2005   Friday, February 11, 2005   Saturday, February 12, 2005   Sunday, February 13, 2005   Tuesday, February 15, 2005   Thursday, February 17, 2005   Saturday, February 19, 2005   Sunday, February 20, 2005   Wednesday, February 23, 2005   Saturday, February 26, 2005   Sunday, February 27, 2005   Monday, February 28, 2005   Wednesday, March 02, 2005   Thursday, March 03, 2005   Sunday, March 06, 2005   Tuesday, March 08, 2005   Wednesday, March 09, 2005   Thursday, March 10, 2005   Friday, March 11, 2005   Saturday, March 12, 2005   Sunday, March 13, 2005   Monday, March 14, 2005   Tuesday, March 15, 2005   Wednesday, March 16, 2005   Thursday, March 17, 2005   Friday, March 18, 2005   Saturday, March 19, 2005   Thursday, March 24, 2005   Friday, March 25, 2005   Saturday, March 26, 2005   Sunday, March 27, 2005   Wednesday, March 30, 2005   Thursday, March 31, 2005   Friday, April 01, 2005   Saturday, April 02, 2005   Sunday, April 03, 2005   Wednesday, April 06, 2005   Thursday, April 07, 2005   Saturday, April 09, 2005   Sunday, April 10, 2005   Monday, April 11, 2005   Thursday, April 14, 2005   Saturday, April 16, 2005   Sunday, April 17, 2005   Monday, April 18, 2005   Wednesday, April 20, 2005   Thursday, April 21, 2005   Friday, April 22, 2005   Saturday, April 23, 2005   Sunday, April 24, 2005   Tuesday, April 26, 2005   Friday, April 29, 2005   Saturday, April 30, 2005   Sunday, May 01, 2005   Monday, May 02, 2005   Tuesday, May 03, 2005   Wednesday, May 04, 2005   Thursday, May 05, 2005   Friday, May 06, 2005   Sunday, May 08, 2005   Wednesday, May 11, 2005   Thursday, May 12, 2005   Friday, May 13, 2005   Sunday, May 15, 2005   Monday, May 16, 2005   Wednesday, May 18, 2005   Thursday, May 19, 2005   Friday, May 20, 2005   Saturday, May 21, 2005   Sunday, May 22, 2005   Monday, May 23, 2005   Tuesday, May 24, 2005   Wednesday, May 25, 2005   Thursday, May 26, 2005   Friday, May 27, 2005   Saturday, May 28, 2005   Sunday, May 29, 2005   Monday, May 30, 2005   Tuesday, May 31, 2005   Wednesday, June 01, 2005   Thursday, June 02, 2005   Friday, June 03, 2005   Saturday, June 04, 2005   Sunday, June 05, 2005   Monday, June 06, 2005   Tuesday, June 07, 2005   Wednesday, June 08, 2005   Thursday, June 09, 2005   Friday, June 10, 2005   Sunday, June 12, 2005   Tuesday, June 14, 2005   Thursday, June 16, 2005   Friday, June 17, 2005   Saturday, June 18, 2005   Sunday, June 19, 2005   Monday, June 20, 2005   Tuesday, June 21, 2005   Thursday, June 23, 2005   Saturday, June 25, 2005   Sunday, June 26, 2005   Tuesday, June 28, 2005   Wednesday, June 29, 2005   Thursday, June 30, 2005   Friday, July 01, 2005   Saturday, July 02, 2005   Monday, July 04, 2005   Wednesday, July 06, 2005   Thursday, July 07, 2005   Saturday, July 09, 2005   Sunday, July 10, 2005   Friday, July 15, 2005   Sunday, July 17, 2005   Tuesday, July 19, 2005   Wednesday, July 20, 2005   Thursday, July 21, 2005   Saturday, July 23, 2005   Sunday, July 24, 2005   Tuesday, August 02, 2005   Thursday, August 04, 2005   Friday, August 05, 2005   Saturday, August 13, 2005   Wednesday, August 24, 2005   Friday, August 26, 2005   Saturday, August 27, 2005   Saturday, September 03, 2005   Wednesday, September 07, 2005   Thursday, September 08, 2005   Saturday, September 24, 2005   Wednesday, September 28, 2005   Wednesday, October 19, 2005   Thursday, October 20, 2005   Friday, October 21, 2005   Sunday, October 23, 2005   Wednesday, November 02, 2005   Monday, November 21, 2005   Wednesday, November 23, 2005   Friday, December 02, 2005   Saturday, December 10, 2005   Saturday, December 17, 2005   Sunday, December 18, 2005   Monday, December 19, 2005   Wednesday, December 21, 2005   Wednesday, January 04, 2006   Friday, January 06, 2006   Monday, January 09, 2006   Monday, January 16, 2006   Tuesday, January 17, 2006   Friday, January 20, 2006   Sunday, January 22, 2006   Saturday, January 28, 2006   Tuesday, January 31, 2006   Wednesday, February 01, 2006   Thursday, February 02, 2006   Wednesday, February 08, 2006   Thursday, February 09, 2006   Friday, February 10, 2006   Saturday, February 11, 2006   Sunday, February 12, 2006   Monday, February 13, 2006   Tuesday, February 14, 2006   Wednesday, February 15, 2006   Thursday, February 16, 2006   Saturday, February 18, 2006   Monday, February 20, 2006   Wednesday, February 22, 2006   Thursday, February 23, 2006   Sunday, March 05, 2006   Tuesday, March 07, 2006   Friday, March 24, 2006   Saturday, March 25, 2006   Wednesday, April 05, 2006   Thursday, April 06, 2006   Friday, April 07, 2006   Saturday, April 08, 2006   Tuesday, April 11, 2006   Monday, April 17, 2006   Tuesday, April 25, 2006   Thursday, April 27, 2006   Tuesday, May 09, 2006   Friday, May 12, 2006   Saturday, May 13, 2006   Sunday, May 14, 2006   Monday, May 15, 2006   Tuesday, May 16, 2006   Thursday, May 18, 2006   Friday, May 26, 2006   Sunday, May 28, 2006   Monday, May 29, 2006   Wednesday, May 31, 2006   Thursday, June 01, 2006   Sunday, June 04, 2006   Monday, June 05, 2006   Friday, June 09, 2006   Saturday, June 10, 2006   Sunday, June 11, 2006   Friday, June 16, 2006   Monday, June 19, 2006   Friday, June 23, 2006   Sunday, June 25, 2006   Tuesday, June 27, 2006   Wednesday, June 28, 2006   Friday, June 30, 2006   Sunday, July 09, 2006   Thursday, July 13, 2006   Friday, July 14, 2006   Saturday, July 15, 2006   Monday, July 17, 2006   Tuesday, July 18, 2006   Wednesday, July 19, 2006   Tuesday, July 25, 2006   Wednesday, July 26, 2006   Friday, July 28, 2006   Sunday, July 30, 2006   Monday, July 31, 2006   Thursday, August 03, 2006   Friday, August 04, 2006   Sunday, August 06, 2006   Monday, August 07, 2006   Wednesday, August 09, 2006   Thursday, August 10, 2006   Sunday, August 13, 2006   Tuesday, August 15, 2006   Thursday, August 17, 2006   Friday, August 18, 2006   Wednesday, September 06, 2006   Friday, September 08, 2006   Monday, September 11, 2006   Wednesday, September 13, 2006   Thursday, September 14, 2006   Friday, September 22, 2006   Saturday, September 23, 2006   Sunday, October 01, 2006   Tuesday, October 03, 2006   Monday, October 30, 2006   Monday, November 06, 2006   Tuesday, November 07, 2006   Sunday, November 12, 2006   Tuesday, November 21, 2006   Wednesday, November 22, 2006   Thursday, November 23, 2006   Friday, December 01, 2006   Monday, December 04, 2006   Tuesday, December 05, 2006   Thursday, December 14, 2006   Wednesday, December 20, 2006   Thursday, December 21, 2006   Friday, December 29, 2006   Wednesday, January 10, 2007   Thursday, January 11, 2007   Saturday, January 13, 2007   Monday, January 15, 2007   Wednesday, January 17, 2007   Saturday, January 20, 2007   Tuesday, January 23, 2007   Tuesday, February 20, 2007   Saturday, February 24, 2007   Sunday, February 25, 2007   Friday, March 23, 2007   Wednesday, April 04, 2007   Tuesday, April 10, 2007   Thursday, April 12, 2007   Friday, April 13, 2007   Thursday, April 19, 2007   Friday, April 20, 2007   Tuesday, April 24, 2007   Tuesday, May 08, 2007   Thursday, May 10, 2007   Friday, May 11, 2007   Monday, May 14, 2007   Tuesday, May 15, 2007   Sunday, May 20, 2007   Monday, May 21, 2007   Tuesday, May 22, 2007   Wednesday, May 23, 2007   Thursday, May 24, 2007   Sunday, May 27, 2007   Wednesday, May 30, 2007   Thursday, May 31, 2007   Friday, June 01, 2007   Monday, June 04, 2007   Wednesday, June 06, 2007   Saturday, June 09, 2007   Sunday, June 10, 2007   Monday, June 11, 2007   Friday, June 15, 2007   Tuesday, June 19, 2007   Tuesday, June 26, 2007   Wednesday, June 27, 2007   Thursday, June 28, 2007   Saturday, June 30, 2007   Monday, July 02, 2007   Tuesday, July 03, 2007   Friday, July 06, 2007   Tuesday, July 10, 2007   Friday, July 13, 2007   Tuesday, July 24, 2007   Saturday, July 28, 2007   Sunday, July 29, 2007   Monday, August 13, 2007   Sunday, August 19, 2007   Saturday, August 25, 2007   Monday, August 27, 2007   Wednesday, August 29, 2007   Friday, August 31, 2007   Friday, September 07, 2007   Wednesday, September 12, 2007   Wednesday, September 19, 2007   Friday, September 21, 2007   Friday, September 28, 2007   Tuesday, October 02, 2007   Thursday, October 11, 2007   Saturday, October 27, 2007   Thursday, November 01, 2007   Saturday, November 03, 2007   Monday, November 05, 2007   Wednesday, November 28, 2007   Tuesday, December 04, 2007   Tuesday, December 11, 2007   Friday, December 14, 2007   Friday, December 21, 2007   Tuesday, December 25, 2007   Saturday, December 29, 2007   Monday, January 07, 2008   Thursday, January 10, 2008   Saturday, January 12, 2008   Sunday, January 13, 2008   Tuesday, January 15, 2008   Friday, January 18, 2008   Saturday, January 19, 2008   Friday, January 25, 2008   Sunday, January 27, 2008   Monday, January 28, 2008   Tuesday, January 29, 2008   Sunday, February 03, 2008   Wednesday, February 06, 2008   Friday, February 08, 2008   Sunday, February 10, 2008   Monday, February 11, 2008   Tuesday, February 12, 2008   Monday, February 25, 2008   Tuesday, February 26, 2008   Monday, March 03, 2008   Tuesday, March 04, 2008   Saturday, March 22, 2008   Saturday, April 19, 2008   Wednesday, April 23, 2008   Saturday, April 26, 2008   Wednesday, April 30, 2008   Monday, May 05, 2008   Tuesday, May 13, 2008   Wednesday, May 14, 2008   Saturday, May 17, 2008   Tuesday, May 20, 2008   Saturday, May 24, 2008   Sunday, May 25, 2008   Thursday, June 12, 2008   Tuesday, June 17, 2008   Saturday, July 05, 2008   Tuesday, July 08, 2008   Monday, August 04, 2008   Thursday, August 28, 2008   Thursday, September 11, 2008   Saturday, September 20, 2008   Monday, September 22, 2008   Tuesday, September 23, 2008   Wednesday, September 24, 2008   Friday, September 26, 2008   Monday, September 29, 2008   Saturday, October 04, 2008   Wednesday, October 08, 2008   Thursday, October 09, 2008   Sunday, October 12, 2008   Wednesday, October 15, 2008   Wednesday, October 22, 2008   Thursday, October 23, 2008   Friday, October 24, 2008   Tuesday, October 28, 2008   Wednesday, October 29, 2008   Monday, November 03, 2008   Tuesday, November 04, 2008   Thursday, November 06, 2008   Saturday, November 08, 2008   Monday, November 10, 2008   Wednesday, November 19, 2008   Thursday, December 18, 2008   Monday, December 22, 2008   Sunday, January 11, 2009   Thursday, January 22, 2009   Monday, January 26, 2009   Thursday, February 19, 2009   Tuesday, February 24, 2009   Friday, February 27, 2009   Monday, March 02, 2009   Thursday, March 05, 2009   Wednesday, March 11, 2009   Thursday, March 12, 2009   Friday, March 13, 2009   Thursday, March 19, 2009   Monday, March 23, 2009   Friday, March 27, 2009   Saturday, March 28, 2009   Sunday, March 29, 2009   Thursday, April 02, 2009   Tuesday, April 07, 2009   Tuesday, April 14, 2009   Tuesday, April 21, 2009   Thursday, April 23, 2009   Saturday, April 25, 2009   Sunday, May 03, 2009   Wednesday, May 06, 2009   Tuesday, May 12, 2009   Wednesday, May 13, 2009   Thursday, May 14, 2009   Sunday, May 17, 2009   Tuesday, May 26, 2009   Wednesday, June 03, 2009   Thursday, June 04, 2009   Tuesday, June 09, 2009   Friday, June 12, 2009   Saturday, June 13, 2009   Sunday, June 14, 2009   Monday, June 22, 2009   Thursday, June 25, 2009   Saturday, July 11, 2009   Tuesday, July 14, 2009   Friday, July 24, 2009   Tuesday, August 18, 2009   Wednesday, August 19, 2009   Friday, August 21, 2009   Monday, August 24, 2009   Thursday, September 03, 2009   Wednesday, September 09, 2009   Thursday, September 10, 2009   Sunday, September 13, 2009   Monday, September 14, 2009   Tuesday, September 15, 2009   Wednesday, September 23, 2009   Friday, September 25, 2009   Sunday, September 27, 2009   Tuesday, September 29, 2009   Monday, November 02, 2009   Tuesday, November 10, 2009   Thursday, November 12, 2009   Tuesday, November 24, 2009   Thursday, February 25, 2010   Thursday, March 04, 2010   Wednesday, March 17, 2010   Tuesday, March 23, 2010   Friday, April 09, 2010   Friday, April 16, 2010   Wednesday, April 21, 2010   Thursday, April 22, 2010   Friday, April 23, 2010   Thursday, April 29, 2010   Sunday, May 02, 2010   Friday, May 07, 2010   Sunday, May 09, 2010   Monday, May 10, 2010   Tuesday, May 11, 2010   Tuesday, June 15, 2010  

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