Of all the banks in the United States, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC) has by far the most unsatisfied customer base. According to a recent report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the bank has racked up the most consumer complaints to the CFPB since 2011 -- 20,512 complaints (and counting) to be exact.
The report, unveiled Thursday, shows Bank of America (BofA) easily trumping Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC), which had more than 12,000 complaints against it. Coming in at No. 3 was JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), the biggest U.S. bank by assets, which had fewer than 10,000 complaints against it.
Numbers released by the CFPB suggest that the majority, or nearly 55 percent, of the more than 90,000 complaints filed with the agency relate to mortgages, the latest sign of the problems banks face in response to increasing foreclosures. Mortgage-related complaints from BofA customers account for about 31 percent of all mortgage-related complaints. Wells Fargo accounted for about 16 percent, while JPMorgan had about 10 percent.
A spokesman for BofA told the Wall Street Journal that most of the complaints against the bank have been resolved. "The servicing of mortgage loans in delinquency or foreclosure predictably results in more frequent customer concerns, as reflected in figures for all institutions in the report," the spokesman said. "We have been intensely focused on improving the process for our mortgage servicing customers."
BofA has been seemingly digging its way out of the hole that created the ordeal, which many consider to be its unfortunate purchase of Countrywide Financial during the crisis in 2008.
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According to the WSJ, the bank has scaled back mortgage lending operations by cutting off relationships with mortgage brokers. The bank slipped to the fifth-largest mortgage lender in the U.S. in the fourth quarter of last year, according to trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance, but remains the second-largest servicer of mortgage loans.
Despite the severity of the damage that information could do to the reputation of these banks, the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial law states that the CFPB has the right to make a complaint database accessible to the public.
While officials suggest that the database will help consumers make better decisions and give regulators a tool to track and better police the financial industry, the banking industry, which has unsurprisingly opposed the release of the data, criticized the CFPB's move.
"A better service to consumers would have allowed for collaboration between the CFPB and financial institutions to determine if a complaint is indeed valid, prior to publication," Richard Hunt, chief executive of the Consumer Bankers Association, told the WSJ.
In its report, the CFPB provided limited detail about specific complaints and did not validate the factual charges behind them. Regardless, bureau officials said they verify that each consumer is an actual customer of a financial institution before adding a complaint to the database.