Wells Fargo, Scam, Accounts

Wells Fargo on Thursday reported flat earnings and a decline in revenue amid signs that the scandal over fake accounts is continuing to hurt its business.

Net income for the first quarter totaled $5.5 billion, or $1 a share, actually beating analysts’ estimates of earnings of 96 cents a share. but revenue fell to $22 billion from $22.6 billion a year earlier. Analysts had predicted nearly $22.3 billion in revenue.

Profit from the community banking division where the scandal occurred rose 10% to $3 billion in comparison with results for the quarter ending in December. But CEO Tim Sloan cautioned that results have not reached pre-scandal levels.

“Of course it’s having an impact on performance at the moment,” he said during a conference call, referring to the scandal. “What we’ve been able to demonstrate historically … is that we can work through those challenges.”

The Los Angeles Times noted that Wells Fargo’s loan balances at the end of the first quarter were down $9.2 billion compared with the end of last year, reflecting in part a drop of nearly $2 billion in consumer credit card balances.

“Some of that is seasonal, as consumers pay off bills after the holidays,” the Times said. “But the bank also blamed some of the decline on the fact that new credit card account openings have fallen sharply since the accounts scandal.”

In March, customers applied for about 200,000 credit cards, a decline of 42% from 12 months earlier. That followed a 55% drop in February.

Wells Fargo also originated fewer auto loans and home mortgages as rising interest rates have made mortgage refinancing less attractive and the bank has joined other lenders in tightening credit standards on auto loans.

Cathy Seifert, an analyst at CFRA Research, said she suspects there’s been at least some effect on those businesses from the scandal — or that there will be in the months and years ahead.

“My sense is this will continue to have an impact on their ability to grow those various consumer businesses going forward,” she told the Times.

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