Wells Fargo’s mortgage unit shrugs off state threat

A two-year battle has California regulators trying to hobble the nation’s largest mortgage lender by revoking its residential-lending license.

In a legal tiff, labeled by Wall Street analysts and Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco as a bunch of hot air out of Sacramento, California’s Department of Corporations charges the bank’s home mortgage unit illegally stiffed its customers with unnecessary charges.

“Department of Corporations examiners discovered that Wells Fargo

BY DAVID SPEAKMAN

A two-year battle has California regulators trying to hobble the nation’s largest mortgage lender by revoking its residential-lending license.

In a legal tiff, labeled by Wall Street analysts and Wells Fargo & Co. of San Francisco as a bunch of hot air out of Sacramento, California’s Department of Corporations charges the bank’s home mortgage unit illegally stiffed its customers with unnecessary charges.

“Department of Corporations examiners discovered that Wells Fargo Home Mortgage was making charges not allowed in California” under the state’s Truth in Lending Act, COD commissioner Demetrios Boutris said in a written statement.

As a national lender, Wells Fargo says it is regulated by the federal government, not California, and has filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to strike down the state’s law. It will be heard March 10.

At issue is California’s mortgage lending law, which differs from federal regulations and laws in the 49 other states on exactly when a lender can start charging interest.

“California law prohibits the charging of interest more than a day before the mortgage is recorded,” says Wells Fargo Home Mortgage CEO Pete Wissinger.

Wall Street analysts believe California’s law is headed for the legal dustbin.

“The most likely outcome would be for the federal court to rule that federal regulations pre-empt state regulations, especially since it has done so in the past,” says Lehman Brothers analyst Jason Goldberg.

In a December 2002 federal court ruling, Wells Fargo successfully fought to have California’s automatic teller machine (ATM) surcharge laws struck down.

“As we all know, banks still charge ATM fees,” Goldberg says.

Bear Stearns analyst David Hilder says Wells Fargo knows what it is doing.

“We continue to view Wells Fargo as one of the best-managed banks,” he says, noting Des Moines, Iowa-based Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is nationally chartered, not California state-chartered.

Its national charter, Wells Fargo’s Wissinger says, is proof the California license threat holds no legal ground.

Attorney thwarts courtroom suicide

Gilbert Franklin Black, Kendallville, almost succeeded in a courtroom gun suicide attempt Tuesday afternoon in Noble County Circuit Court. He was at a sentencing hearing.

Black, 53, had been convicted at an earlier hearing for sexual battery on an 11-year-old girl. He appeared in court for sentencing before Judge Robert C. Probst.

The child and her family were present at the hearing.

According

(Albion (Indiana) New Era – Page 1 – March 1, 1995) 

By David Speakman

Gilbert Franklin Black, Kendallville, almost succeeded in a courtroom gun suicide attempt Tuesday afternoon in Noble County Circuit Court. He was at a sentencing hearing.

Black, 53, had been convicted at an earlier hearing for sexual battery on an 11-year-old girl. He appeared in court for sentencing before Judge Robert C. Probst.

The child and her family were present at the hearing.

According to an aunt of the girl, Probst announced Black would serve three years in prison – the maximum sentence for his conviction.

According to witnesses, Black stood up after the sentence was announced and was asked to await transport by police to the jail.

The aunt said she saw Black’s attorney, Richard Thonert lung as Black pushing him.

Then onlookers could see that Black had removed a small caliber handgun from beneath his jacket and placed it under his chin.

He pulled the trigger while his attorney tried to stop the action, witnesses said.

A single shot was heard throughout the building.

“After the gunshot, the girl’s mother ran from the courtroom,” said the aunt.

A witness at the scene saw the mother and various family members run from the courthouse and exit the east side of the building.

Employees at the county clerk’s office heard a female voice shout, “Call an ambulance, he’s shot himself,” then heard another voice say, “No, don’t. He deserves to die.”

Black was released fro McCray Hospital after treatment of superficial injuries around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday into county police custody to be transported to the Indiana State Penitentiary.

“I’m glad he didn’t die,” the aunt said, expressing further that he deserved to be behind bars.

“He can rape a little girls,” she said, “but can’t face three years in jail.”

 Black was transported by EMS to McCray Memorial after an original Trip to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne via Samaritan helicopter was aborted as unnecessary.

Town, county and state law enforcement officers responded tot he call of gunfire in the courthouse.

Ii is not against the law in Indiana to carry a firearm into a courtroom, providing the carrier has a permit, according to Bruce Bryant, administrative assistant for the Indiana State Police Firearms Section in Indianapolis.

lack could be charged, however, with contempt of court, violations of discharging a weapon within town or county property, criminal recklessness and other crimes related to the firearm discharge.

As recently as their Monday regular meeting, Noble County Commissioners have been discussing courthouse security measures.

Noble County Prosecutor David Lauer said the three county judges expressed continuing concern for the prevention of firearms in the courthouse.

“It doesn’t matter how many deputies are in the building or how quickly officers respond,” Lauer said. “By the time shots are fired, it’s too late.”