Matthew Price, BBC
The awards on top of the cabinet dominate Beth Jacobson’s small office.
Beth Jacobson worked for Wells Fargo – one of the largest banks in the US – for nine years. She was a champion salesman for the company, shifting huge numbers of sub-prime mortgages.
Some awards are the shape of table-top obelisks. Others look more like local football club trophies, with small metal plates screwed onto them, and a list of dates and numbers.
The numbers are large.
“That was for $4.9m [£3m] for 17 sub-prime loans. This month was 26 sub-prime loans. I did over $6m at that point,” she says.
She says her tactic was to make sure all the loans she issued were for sub-prime borrowers.
“It was a lot easier to put people into a sub-prime loan. If you take the application and said ‘OK, how much do you have in the bank?’, and then not ask for any back-up documentation, that would keep it as a sub-prime loan,” she explains.
“If you would have [asked] for a couple of bank statements, that would have proved that they could have gone prime, but if the sub-prime loan officer [has] already been able to sell that rate to that customer, then why would you take it prime and cut your commission by two-thirds?”
Under a sub-prime mortgage customers didn’t have to prove their income. They didn’t have to pay a deposit. The lender made a lot of money – and the customer typically ended up paying a much higher rate of interest.