Wells Fargo expects to refund debit-card fees amid review

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Wells Fargo & Co. said it expects to refund certain fees paid on debit-card accounts as it reviews disclosures that may have confused customers.

The San Francisco-based bank, which is working to emerge from a series of customer-abuse scandals, also said Friday in a filing that potential legal losses rose by $400 million in the first quarter. It’s the second consecutive quarter that this figure — essentially a worst-case scenario — has risen at the bank.

Wells Fargo might have to spend as much as $3.1 billion more than what it set aside by the end of March to resolve investigations and other legal woes, up from $2.7 billion at the end of December. The firm attributed the rise to a “variety of matters.”

The higher estimate and additional review show legal risks rose again in a quarter that culminated with Tim Sloan stepping down as chief executive officer in the face of mounting political, regulatory and investor scrutiny. Allen Parker, the bank’s general counsel, is interim CEO while the board searches for its next leader.

Wells Fargo’s scandals erupted in 2016 on the revelation that employees opened millions of potentially fake accounts to meet sales goals. Problems have since emerged across most business lines, prompting internal and external probes. The bank still faces more than a dozen investigations and 14 regulatory consent orders, including a Federal Reserve-imposed growth restriction.

The company said in Friday’s filing that it is still in early talks with the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve probes related to sales practices with “no assurance as to the outcome,” after announcing the negotiations in February.

Bloomberg News
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