I know it sounds bad, but that's only because it might actually be that bad. Beth Jacobson, a former loan officer at Wells Fargo, sat down with the Times this weekend to get into the nitty gritty of her craft. Generally speaking, Jacobson described her work as ten years of riding "stagecoach from hell...systematically singling out blacks in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime mortgages." Okay, but specifically, how did she and her colleagues do it? I'm glad you asked.
"We just went right after them," said Ms. Jacobson, who is white and said she was once the bank's top-producing subprime loan officer nationally. "Wells Fargo mortgage had an emerging-markets unit that specifically targeted black churches, because it figured church leaders had a lot of influence and could convince congregants to take out subprime loans."
Interesting! Sort of fucked up, sure, but before we start name-calling, let's hear more about the process.
In 2001, former loan officer Tony Paschal states in his affidavit, Wells Fargo created a unit in the mid-Atlantic region to push expensive refinancing loans on black customers, particularly those living in Baltimore, southeast Washington and Prince George's County, Md.
"They referred to subprime loans made in minority communities as ghetto loans and minority customers as 'those people have bad credit', 'those people don't pay their bills' and 'mud people,' " Mr. Paschal said in his affidavit.
He said a bank office in Silver Spring, Md., had an "affinity group marketing" section, which hired blacks to call on African-American churches. "The company put 'bounties' on minority borrowers," Mr. Paschal said. "By this I mean that loan officers received cash incentives to aggressively market subprime loans in minority communities."
Emphasis ours, but only because we wanted to make it easier for Wells to respond to the allegations. Here's the statement offered to the Times:
"We have worked extremely hard to make homeownership possible for more African-American borrowers," wrote Kevin Waetke, a spokesman for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. "We absolutely do not tolerate team members treating our customers or others disrespectfully or unfairly, or who violate our ethics and lending practices."