Compliance failures in banking can often result in real harm to borrowers. In the case of Wells Fargo, a compliance error resulted in 400 of the bank’s customers losing their homes. Due to an issue in the bank’s software system, the institution denied loan modifications to borrowers who should have qualified. This latest failure adds to the myriad of issues Wells Fargo bungled over the past several months. For compliance professionals, the failure demonstrates the risks of automation in compliance, the importance of technical expertise, and the risks of decision-making without putting the interests of the customer first.
Following the 2016 Wells Fargo scandal in which the bank opened millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts to collect fees, federal regulators have worked to address and respond to the corporation’s illegal conduct. On February 2nd, 2018, the U.S. Federal Reserve imposed unprecedented restrictions against Wells Fargo & Co. when it capped the bank’s growth for 2018 such that it could not exceed the total assets owned at the end of 2017. This restriction marks a substantial departure from previous penalties issued for improper compliance. Changes in policies and procedures and this novel punishment reflect a notable shift in the national bank’s expectations of corporate directors.