Wells Fargo & Co. engaged in an "extensive and pervasive pattern" of discriminatory and illegal lending practices for years, a U.S. regulator said in slashing a key rating of how the bank serves communities, triggering restrictions that may hamper its growth.

While examiners credited Wells Fargo for "excellent responsiveness" in meeting customers' credit needs, 10 government inquiries over the past decade prompted the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to lower its overall score of the company's compliance with community banking laws to "needs to improve." Enforcement cases cited by the OCC faulted the bank's treatment of minority neighborhoods, military personnel and women who had recently given birth.


The findings risk further damage to Wells Fargo's reputation as executives try to rebuild customer and investor trust in the wake of an account scandal that rocked the company and its stock price last year. Yet, many of the cases cited by the OCC already were announced years ago in settlements, including some misconduct that predated the 2008 financial crisis.

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