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Mind the GAP: Wells Fargo Faces New Charges

August 08, 2017

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo may have added unpaid GAP refunds to its list of regulatory woes. Photo by Davide D’Amico
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo may have added unpaid GAP refunds to its list of regulatory woes. Photo by Davide D’Amico

SAN FRANCISCO — On the heels of an announcement that Wells Fargo will begin issuing refunds to more than half a million customers affected by issues related to sales of collateral protection insurance (CPI), the company now faces charges of failing to properly compensate car buyers who purchased guaranteed asset protection (GAP) coverage through Wells Fargo Dealer Services and paid their loans off ahead of schedule.

The GAP issue appears to have been raised in the course of an external inquiry ordered by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, where Wells Fargo is based. In a statement sent to The New York Times, however, spokeswoman Jennifer Temple said the company “discovered issues related to a lack of oversight and controls” during an internal review.

“We are reviewing our practices and actively working with our dealers and have already begun making improvements to the GAP refund process,” Temple’s statement read, in part. “If we find customer impacts, we will make customers whole.”

Wells Fargo’s directors also mentioned the GAP issue in the company’s most recent quarterly financial statement, referring to “certain issues related to the unused portion of guaranteed auto protection waiver or insurance agreements … which may result in refunds to customers in certain states.” Nine states require insurance providers to return unused insurance funds to customers: Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Carolina.

The company’s plans to remediate affected purchasers of CPI policies were announced last week. In a statement posted to Well Fargo’s website, Franklin Codel, the executive who leads the company’s consumer lending division and, by extension, Wells Fargo Dealer Services, alluded to a companywide culture change in announcing the CPI remediation plan.

“In the fall of last year, our CEO and our entire leadership team committed to build a better bank and be transparent about those efforts,” Codel said, explaining that the CPI issue was uncovered by the company's own analysts. “Our actions over the past year show we are acting on this commitment.”

After reviewing CPI policies sold between 2012 and 2017, Wells Fargo identified about 570,000 car buyers who “may have been impacted” and determined that $64 million in cash remediation and $16 million worth of account adjustments would have to be performed. It is not known whether or how many customers will be owed compensation as a result of the company’s review of its GAP program.

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