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DOL Involved in Wells Fargo Wealth Investigation: Report

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The Labor Department is reportedly examining if Wells Fargo has been encouraging participants in corporate 401(k) plans to move their assets into individual retirement accounts, according to a story Thursday in The Wall Street Journal.

The DOL also wants to know if Wells Fargo’s retirement-plan unit pushed clients to obtain in-house funds, which involve front-end loads or fees. In addition, the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission also are looking into the bank’s retirement-plan practices, sources told the Journal.

The news comes about two months after Wells Fargo disclosed that regulators were reviewing such issues in its 10-K report of March 1, though the filing did not name the specific agencies involved in the investigation. A week ago, the bank agreed to pay a fine of $1 billion related to problems in its auto and mortgage-lending operations.

“This is a big deal. Earlier investigations were related to banking. Now it’s … is finally hitting [its] advisory business,” said recruiter Danny Sarch of Leitner Sarch Consultants, when the news emerged in early March. Sarch says that since then he has been contacted by a number of advisors with Wells Fargo who are considering their options.

Recently, four Wells Fargo advisors with over $1 billion in client assets left to join RBC Wealth Management.

Wells Fargo said it was “committed to thorough reviews of Wealth and Investment Management,” according to a statement obtained by ThinkAdvisor.

“The disclosures in the 10-K filing reflect our continued commitment to transparency, even when all of the information or the final outcome of a matter may not be known just yet. We are making significant progress in our work to identify and fix any issues, make things right, and build a better, stronger company.”

— Check out Wells Fargo May Not Be Done Paying for Its Misdeeds on ThinkAdvisor.