Wells Fargo & Co. decided to exit reverse mortgages after federal officials insisted it foreclose on elderly customers who were behind on property tax and insurance payments, a Wells executive wrote in an email to business contacts Friday.

The San Francisco-based bank had other reasons to shut down its 1,000-employee reverse mortgage unit. The industry's lack of growth, declining housing prices and other issues have reduced its draw for major lenders, prompting other market leaders such as Bank of America Corp. and Financial Freedom for Seniors Inc. to pull out as well. The business is simply not central to the mortgage operations of Wells and others.

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