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American Express Says CFPB May Take Action Against Two Bank Subsidiaries

By Andrew R. Johnson American Express Co. (AXP), the largest U.S. credit-card lender by spending, said Thursday the U.S. government's consumer-finance watchdog may take action against both of the credit-card lender's U.S. banking subsidiaries. The disclosure follows an earlier disclosure that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Utah Department of Financial Institutions, were reviewing the company's practices for potential violations of consumer-protection laws. It said in February that the FDIC notified American Express' Centurion Bank, one of the subsidiaries that issues the lender's cards, of plans to issue an enforcement action against it, and it expected the CFPB to follow suit. "The CFPB also recently indicated that it may take enforcement action against the company's other U.S. banking subsidiary," American Express Bank FSB "for certain card practices similar to those at Centurion Bank," American Express said in the Thursday filing. A spokesman for the New York-based lender declined to comment. American Express has changed some of its "card practices and products" in response to discussions with regulators and set aside money for expected customer refunds, the filing said. Chief Financial Officer Dan Henry last month said on an earnings conference call the company has made changes related to "pricing, disclosure or collections." Other credit-card lenders have disclosed regulatory probes in recent months. Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) last month agreed to pay $210 million to settle claims by the CFPB and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that call-center representatives misled consumers when pitching payment-protection plans and credit-monitoring products. The amount included $150 million for customer refunds. The CFPB and FDIC have been investigating Discover Financial Services (DFS) over its marketing of payment-protection and other add-on products pitched to credit-card customers, according to company filings. Discover has said it expects the regulators to take joint enforcement action against it. American Express also said Thursday that it's "reasonably possible" losses related to legal and governmental matters could reach $520 million over and above what it has already accrued for such matters. It previously estimated such losses could reach $510 million. American Express' shares closed down 0.6% at $56.49 Thursday. Write to Andrew R. Johnson at Subscribe to WSJ:

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