How The Mighty Have Fallen

From the New York Times:

Bracing for Home Loan Losses, Wells Fargo to Take Big Charge

Wells Fargo & Company, the nation’s second-largest mortgage lender, after Countrywide Financial, said yesterday that it would take a $1.4 billion fourth-quarter charge for losses it anticipated in connection with home loans.

The bank said that it would continue to provide home equity financing directly to customers, but that it would not originate or acquire home equity loans through indirect channels. Wells Fargo will also not originate home equity loans through third parties when the combined loan-to-value ratio of the first and second mortgages is over 90 percent or where the second mortgage is not behind a Wells Fargo loan.

The bank is putting $11.9 billion into a special liquidating portfolio. The bank’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said that the figure is 3 percent of its total loans outstanding, but that it represents the riskiest element of the $83.4 billion in its National Home Equity Group portfolio. The loans are generally clustered in areas of the country that are having the greatest decline in retail prices.

R. Scott Siefers, an analyst who follows Wells Fargo for Sandler O’Neill, said: “It is unfortunate certainly because Wells Fargo has had an aura of invincibility. Over the last few years, it has not gotten involved in a lot of the issues that have caused so much pain for the group. It is one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country so this is going to be painful for everybody.

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