Wells Fargo’s profit dropped by more than half in the fourth quarter as low interest rates and litigation expenses weighed on its bottom line, offsetting its cost-cutting efforts.
The results for the quarter ended Dec. 31 represented the first measure of the bank’s performance under Charles Scharf, its fourth CEO since it revealed in 2016 that employees had opened potentially millions of bogus accounts in customers’ names.
In the earnings release, Scharf promised to “make the fundamental changes necessary to regain the full trust and respect of all stakeholders,” adding that his “primary focus has been on advancing our required regulatory work with a different sense of urgency and resolve, while beginning to develop a path to improve our financial results.”
Investors didn’t see much improvement in the fourth quarter, sending Wells Fargo shares down 5.4% to $49.30 in trading Tuesday.
For the quarter, Wells Fargo’s profit fell to $2.55 billion, or 60 cents per share, from $5.71 billion, or $1.21 per share, a year earlier. The bank earned an adjusted 93 cents per share on revenue of $19.86 billion.
Analysts had expected earnings of $1.12 per share on revenue of $20.12 billion.
Since Tim Sloan was CEO, Wells Fargo has been trying to boost profitability through cost-cutting. But in the fourth quarter, non-interest expenses jumped 17%, due in part to a $1.5 billion charge for legal expenses related to the fake-accounts scandal.
“While we are spending what is necessary in order to improve risk management, our other expenses were too high and becoming more efficient remains a top priority,” CFO John Shrewsberry said.
Wells Fargo’s net interest income declined by $425 million to $11.2 billion, reflecting lower interest rates as the yield it earned on assets such as loans dropped to 3.51% from 3.76% while the rate it paid on interest-bearing liabilities such as customer deposits dropped to 1.3% from 1.46%.
Mortgage banking income rose to $783 million from $467 million. “We continued to have positive business trends with both loans and deposits growing from the third quarter and a year ago,” Shrewsberry said.