investing

Malibu party crashes

Saturday, Sept. 19
Posted 8 a.m. EDT

It just doesn't do to show off anymore. In the wake of a huge government bailout of financial institutions, it's no wonder the neighbors tattled on a deeply misguided Wells Fargo bank executive who apparently moved into a home that had been foreclosed on by the bank and proceeded to live the high life, hosting parties described as "lavish" by shocked residents.

With $25 billion of the good taxpayers' money in the form of a government bailout, it seems prudence should be the order of the day for Wells Fargo financiers.

The two-story oceanfront home in wealthy Malibu, Calif., is certainly a tempting beauty for a beach bash. It formerly belonged to a couple who had lost their fortune in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, which gives the bank executive's "let them eat cake" attitude even more poignancy.

Wells Fargo has tried to stem the public relations nightmare by firing the executive and publicly denouncing her actions. Perhaps that will be sufficient, but the bank's subsequent moves suggest its executives might still benefit from a dose of reality.

The bank had been slow to put the home on the market, despite reports that there are numerous buyers who are interested. Immediately after the public relations crisis, the bank did put the home up for sale for $21.5 million -- nearly twice its $12 million value when it was transferred to the bank in May. Some potential buyers have replied with thanks, but no thanks.

Wells Fargo has also pledged to pay back the bailout funds it received, but has not said when. Other banks, such as JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, have already repaid the money.

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