During the Occupy Portland March, I passed the Wells Fargo Center, Oregon's tallest building, 41 stories of shining marble and black glass, that the New York Times characterized as "huge, sleek, and featureless". What a penetrating phallic marvel of pecuniary perpetration.
Wells Fargo Center Portland by Wikimedia Commons
A contingent of not so anonymous banker types stood safely on the elevated stairway, and gazed down upon the throngs of energetic, enthusiastic, and visibly pissed-off Americans who filled the streets in hope of bringing our country to its senses, and restoring fairness and decency, that would nurture future generations.
Full Crew by Allan Wayne
At first, the collection of Wells Fargo countenances seemed curiously and collectively compromised, as if the sight of so many people in the street, did not fit the shackled comfort level of conventional banking--wait in line, wait your turn, sorry about the credit score; no, I don't have the authority to remove that fee that while it does seem unfair, etc, ad naseum. The men huddle; the women fuss. Yet later, as you see, they find their bearing. And why not, Wells Fargo is nothing, if not big.
Wells Fargo, you may remember, paid $25 Million in stock bonues back in 2009, right after citizens bailed the big banks out. John Stumpf, Wells's chief, was paid about $10 million in stock (James Estrin/The New York Times).
John Stumpf by Wiki Commons
Mr. Stumpf received 379,600 shares, valued at about $10 million. The chief financial officer, Howard I. Atkins; the head of wholesale banking, David A. Hoyt; and the head of home and consumer finance, Mark C. Oman, each received 189,800 shares, worth about $5 million each.
Wells Fargo's move follows that of the Goldman Sachs Group, which in December said it would pay its top managers their 2009 bonuses in stock rather than cash. Hopefully, that would not piss off citizens so much.
Big banks lined up at the feeding trough. AIG is notable for having received $170 billion in taxpayer bailouts and in the fourth quarter of 2008 posted a loss of $61.7 billion, the greatest ever for any corporation. Beyond the $165 million in bonus payments that were recently announced, total bonuses for the financial unit could reach $450 million and bonuses for the entire company could reach $1.2 billion (Wiki)..
Wells Fargo--What a name--The main bank lobby is home to an authentic 1870 stagecoach from Wells Fargo's past. What would a stagecoach have to do to get fined in July 2011 with the Federal Reserve's biggest-ever consumer protection fine?--$85 million for fraud, deceptive claims, and unsafe banking practices for its lending practices between 2004 and 2008 (Colin Barr--Fortune.com).
You have to rip off mortgage borrowers by the thousand. The Fed alleges Wells Fargo (WFC) did just that during the housing boom, bilking "possibly more than 10,000" out of sums reaching as high as $20,000 by slapping them with high-cost loans when they would have qualified for cheaper ones.
The Fed also told the bank to compensate wronged customers. Those sums could run into the millions of dollars, going by Fed figures. What did Wells do? Commission-hungry salespeople at Wells Fargo Financial, a subprime loan shop the bank shut down last year after the mortgage market cratered, "altered or falsified income documents and inflated prospective borrowers' incomes to qualify those borrowers for loans that they would not otherwise have been qualified to receive," the Fed said. In a familiar tale, the bank also sold people who would have qualified for low-cost loans costlier ones.
Wells, of course, neither admitted nor denied anything.
Why should they? There seem to be few consequences.
Bank of America has agreed to settle with a group of high-profile investors for $8.5 billion for losses on mortgage-backed securities. A settlement of this size would seem to point to considerable wrongdoing by the bank. And yet, no criminal charges have been brought against Bank of America (Natasha Lennard).
According to the Guardian (11 Oct 2011), Mervyn King is warning that this financial crisis could be the most serious the world has ever faced, but that has failed to dent most bankers' feeling that they can expect a bonus, with many predicting it will be higher than last year.
It is a great world for bankers. Wells Fargo, led by CEO John G. Stumpf, 58, will make 72 cents a share in the quarter, up 9 percent from a year earlier, according to the average estimate of 29 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The lender will earn a record $15.2 billion, or $2.82 per share, for the full year, according to the same analysts.
No wonder the Wells Fargo guys in Portland seem so non-plussed. The economy could go to hell, and they will still be living high on the hog. The women retreat inside. The men are beside themselves with mirth. They swagger; they laugh; they pose on the vestibule while the hog rises high above.
Well Fargo Contingent by Allan Wayne