The chief executive of the nation’s largest mortgage lender Wells Fargo got a surprise visitor on stage Thursday during a presentation at a California banking conference: foreclosure protesters questioning the bank’s practices.
CEO John Stumpf was interrupted by a group of activists as he spoke. They were part of a larger campaign by homeowner advocates to get more principal reductions for borrowers facing possible foreclosure.
California homeowner Betty Badro told the Huffington Post that she walked onto the stage and presented the CEO with her hand, a smile and a friendly “Hey John.” (See picture)
“I said ‘my name is Betty Badro, I’ve lived in my home for 19 years and you’re going to sell it tomorrow,’” Badro told The Huffington Post. “He quickly withdrew his hand and walked away.”
The Post said that after Badro’s move, a group of about 25 protesters with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) joined her, according to American Banker, which sponsored the conference.
Vickee Adams, a Wells Fargo spokesperson, responded to the Huffington Post:
“We are very disappointed in the actions protesters took at the Retail Banking Conference today that disrupted John Stumpf’s presentation and the entire conference,” Adams wrote. “This type of behavior damages efforts for productive dialogue and opportunities to work together to reach solutions.”
But many economists agree with the protesters, contending that more principal reductions could help alleviate the foreclosure crisis by helping “underwater” borrowers make their mortgage payments.
In a report, ACCE claims that Wells Fargo is providing “far less” principal reductions to its California borrowers than Bank of America, despite servicing more loans in the state.
Wells Fargo denied the report’s findings in a statement, saying the bank has provided borrowers with $6.3 billion in principal reduction, most of which has gone to California borrowers.
Also on Thursday, a regulatory filing revealed that Stumpf’s CEO pay increased 8 percent to $19.3 million in 2012, making him one of the industry’s best-paid leaders.
Wells Fargo posted $18.9 billion in earnings in 2012, up 19 percent from the previous year.
However, Wells Fargo and other top U.S. lenders are mired in two major mortgage settlements tied to improper foreclosures nationwide. The settlements stem from practices that include shoddy paperwork, “robo-signing” documents without verifying the facts, and wrongful evictions in some cases.
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