LOS ANGELES — Wells Fargo (WFC) plans to give its underwriters more control in approving mortgages that it retains in its own portfolio, as the bank tries to add high-quality assets to its balance sheet.

Wells is touting the new strategy, which it calls "judgment underwriting," as part of an effort to attract borrowers that may not qualify for conventional mortgages backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration. Mortgages that the San Francisco bank underwrites using these new guidelines will not be sold to the government-sponsored enterprises; instead, Wells will keep them in its "held for investment" portfolios.

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