Wells Fargo Fourth Quarter Income Results Miss Estimates

Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE:WFC) has released the results for the fourth quarter of its fiscal year. The company reports that net income fell 5.4 percent to $5.27 billion, or 96 cents a share, from $5.58 billion, or $1, a year earlier. The average estimate of surveyed analysts was for adjusted profit of $1 a share. Revenue was unchanged from the prior year at $21.6 billion.

Revenue from its mortgage business declined 15 percent to $1.42 billion from the $1.66 billion it earned in same period a year earlier. The bank extended $72 billion in home loans between the end of September and the end of December, compared with $70 billion in the third quarter of 2016. Servicing revenue fell 73 percent to $196 million, hurt by hedging losses. The ineffective hedge reduced earnings by 7 cents a share.

Wells Fargo fell from its perch as the world’s most valuable lender last year after a scandal in its retail bank, which involved fake accounts opened without customer authorization. The bank was accused of opening as many as 2.1 million accounts with fictitious or unauthorized information.

For years prior to the scandal, retail-bank employees were urged to pitch as many bank products as possible to each customer to meet sales goals and earn incentives, which were identified by regulators as an inducement to employee wrongdoing. The bank’s new compensation plan for community-bank employees eliminates those incentives.

Several regulators announced a settlement with the bank on Sept. 8. Including fines of $185 million. Former CEO John Stumpf was forced to resign. The bank still faces investigations from authorities including the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities & Exchange Commission over the scandal. Current Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan has said the bank expects to spend tens of millions of dollars to get through investigations and other regulatory matters related to the scandal.

Since the scandal broke, Wells Fargo has had trouble increasing its numbers of new retail-bank customers. Customers have opened fewer checking accounts and submitted fewer credit-card applications each month, with a drop of 40 percent and 43 percent, respectively, in December from a year ago. However, income from credit card fees rose to $1 billion from $966 million a year earlier.

The fourth quarter was the first three-month period to start after the regulatory fine was imposed. The scandal has boosted expenses, which are likely to remain high for some time. Wells Fargo’s return on equity, at 10.94%, is at its lowest level in years. Shares fell about 1 percent in premarket trading after the results were announced. Wells Fargo has surged 20 percent since the victory by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Nov. 8.