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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wells Fargo Conference Call on Foreclosure-Gate

by Calculated Risk on 10/20/2010 11:08:00 AM

From the Wells Fargo conference call (ht Brian):

Let me shift to give you an overview of the foreclosure and mortgage securitization issues. These are issues obviously that are very important to consumers, mortgage investors, and shareholders. But we believe that these issues have been somewhat overstated and, to a certain extent, misrepresented in the marketplace.

I would like to be clear here on how they impact Wells Fargo specifically. So starting on slide 26 first [previous post], as John already mentioned , foreclosure at Wells Fargo is a last resort , not a first resort . We work very early with customers who are beginning to experience problems paying their mortgages and continue to do so for the length of time that the problems are being experienced.

80% of customers who are 60 days or more delinquent work with us, and when they do we are successful in helping seven out of every 10 avoid foreclosure. We attempt to contact customers on average over 75 times by phone and nearly 50 times by letter during the roughly 16 months that it takes for foreclosures to be completed once a borrower becomes (technical difficulty ).

Second, our foreclosure and securitization policies, practices, and controls in our view, are sound. To help ensure accuracy over the years, Wells Fargo has built control processes that link customer information with foreclosure procedures and documentation requirements . Our process specifies that affidavit signers and reviewers are the same team member, not different people, and affidavits are properly notarized. Not all banks in our understanding do it this way. If we find errors, we fix them; promptly as we can. We ensure loans in foreclosure are assigned to the appropriate party as necessary to comply with local laws and investor requirements.
And on servicing fees:
Analyst: We are reading all of these headlines that are impacting the mortgage business in one way or another, I guess the thing that jumps out to me is the servicing business really hasn't been priced for what we are seeing right now. Maybe the cost to you in the repurchase is a little bit less; but for some other competitors it seems like it is going to be a pretty high cost. So how do you think about just pricing I guess on the origination side as well as on the servicing side for your current production and going forward?

WFC CEO: We're always looking at -- as we are looking at this business, first of all there is great scale here. You're right with your comments that when you have problem portfolios it costs more money. ...

Analyst: I guess what I'm getting at is the servicing fees that you get as an industry I think are relatively modest to probably what some of the costs are either to modify some of these loans -- obviously the foreclosure process. So it just feels that that is going to be a much bigger burden for the business going forward, and it might make sense to start repricing some of that business right now.

WFC CFO: The industry might do that, and of course we look at that. But clearly for the 8% that is past due, that is expensive. There is no question about that. But you got to look at a whole, at a portfolio -- from a portfolio perspective. The industry will react to it. If this is a prolonged issue, I am sure new servicing will -- might be considered differently.
The analyst seems to be asking if Wells Fargo is considering increasing their servicing fee. It is important to remember that servicing is counter-cyclical and that these are the worst of times for servicers. Not only are foreclosures up, but they are also seeing a high level of refinancing because of low mortgage rates (and each loan has an upfront fixed cost, so the servicers sometimes doesn't have time to recoup the upfront costs). But during more normal times, servicing is a real cash cow for the industry - and any increase would suggest insufficient competition and should be opposed by regulators.