Elizabeth Warren Calls Wells Fargo CEO a “Gutless Leader”
Elizabeth Warren isn’t accepting Wells Fargo CEO’s John Stumpf’s apology.
On Tuesday, at a Senate Banking Committee meeting, the Massachusetts senator, called the top executive of one of the largest banks in the nation a “gutless leader,” and accused him of personally pocketing $200 million from the bank’s massive fraud. She also said he should personally be criminally investigated for the fraud.
“You should resign,” Warren told Stumpf, who was testifying before the committee. “You should give back the money you made, and you should be criminally investigated.”
Last week, it was reported that the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the bank’s cross selling practices that let to the millions of phony accounts that were opened without the customers’ permission. There is no indication that the government is investigating Stumpf personally. Earlier this month, Wells Fargo paid $185 million to settle charges that it defrauded customers by the Los Angeles City Attorney and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. But neither LA nor the CFPB went after any of the bank’s employees.
Warren has long made the point that top bank executives should be held accountable when banks have been found guilty of fraud. Last week, Warren sent a letter to the DOJ’s inspector general asking why law enforcement officials had not follow up on any of the 11 referals the financial crisis commission made to the Justice Department. Back in April, Fortune reported that the FCIC had recommended that the Justice Department investigate former Treasury Secretary and Citigroup top executive Robert Rubin. Rubin, through a lawyer, told Fortune he was never contacted by anyone.
In his testimony, Stumpf said he was deeply sorry for the mistreatment of customers. He told senators that he wasn’t made aware of the fraud until 2013, around the time the Los Angeles Times a high profile article detailing the problems at the bank, and that he wished he had acted sooner.
But Warren said that wasn’t nearly enough. At one point she asked Stumpf if he had resigned as CEO of the bank. He said he had not.
Warren asked if any top executive had been fired over the massive fraud. Stumpf said Carrie Tolstedt, the head of the bank’s consumer banking unit, had left the bank in part because of the problem with phony accounts. But Tolstedt was allowed to retire, along with a $124.6 million payday. Warren characterized that move along with others as “gutless.” She also criticized Stumpf for his comments last week on CNBC when he blamed the fraud not on Wells Fargo’s management but the actions of underperforming employees.
Warren also accused Stumpf of personally profiting from the fraud. She said Stumpf and other top Wells Fargo executives pumped up the company’s stock price by touting to Wall Street analyst, investors, and others the bank’s cross selling prowess. Warren said Stumpf held 6.57 million shares of Wells Fargo’s stock during the period the CFPB has accused Wells Fargo of committing fraud, and that shares of Wells Fargo (WFC) rose about $35 during that time.