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Wells Mostly Steered Clear of CDOs: Execs

Wells Fargo executives said the bank doesn't have any meaningful exposure to the type of structured products that have gotten Goldman Sachs in trouble.



) --

Wells Fargo

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management indicated on Wednesday that the firm doesn't have any meaningful exposure to the type of structured products that have gotten

Goldman Sachs

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in trouble with regulators across the globe.

"On the Wells side, we were never in that business, and Wachovia was mostly in commercial real estate, but exited that business toward the end of 2007, which was a year before the merger," CEO John Stumpf said when asked about its exposure to collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, by an analyst on a conference call.

CFO Howard Atkins added that the remaining Wachovia CDOs were written down "to fair value at kind of the worst point in the cycle," indicating that they might actually have improved in value.

Worries have spread across the financial industry since the

Securities and Exchange Commission

filed civil fraud charges against Goldman last week. The charges relate to a CDO deal that Goldman structured back in 2007 between a hedge-fund manager who was betting against the subprime housing market, and investors on the other side of the trade who were more bullish on housing.

The SEC alleges that Goldman misrepresented the deal to long investors, who ultimately lost $1 billion as the housing market went bust. While the charges have been criticized as weak, the SEC has said it is investigating other deals across the industry to discover potential wrongdoing. Regulators in the United Kingdom are examining Goldman and others as well.

Neither Wells Fargo nor Wachovia were

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major players in the structured derivatives during the height of the market. Instead, it was dominated by U.S. firms like

Merrill Lynch

, now owned by

Bank of America

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, as well as

Lehman Brothers


JPMorgan Chase

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, Bear Stearns and


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. Some other big banks across the pond, such as

Deutsche Bank

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Credit Suisse

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, also had exposure to such trades, as does


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Banks have largely remained mum on the issue, which has the potential to lead to not just regulatory litigation, but investor lawsuits as well.

Citigroup CFO John Gerspach said Monday that the bank doesn't have exposure to the Goldman-related charges, but wouldn't discuss the matter further. When

Goldman held its own earnings conference call on Tuesday, its counsel was on hand to

field questions about the case, and defend itself against the allegations.

Asked whether he had anything further to add to the topic, Wells CFO Atkins responded: "Nope."

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York