Wells Fargo ordered security to forcibly remove an investor from its 2017 shareholder meeting after the man allegedly made a “physical approach” to its board of directors.
Just 35 minutes into its annual meeting in Florida Tuesday, the bank’s executives declared the proceedings “out of order” when shareholder Bruce Marks abruptly demanded that the board of directors explain where they were when some 5,300 employees were opening as many as 2 million fake accounts for customers.
After a short recess to restore order, Wells Fargo (WFC) chairman Stephen Sanger announced that Marks “made a physical approach to our board members so we removed him from the meeting.”
Marks, a Wells Fargo shareholder and CEO of the non-profit mortgage watchdog Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, tells Fortune he was “physically removed” from the meeting and also “thrown out” of the Sawgrass Marriott resort which was hosting the event.
At least six security guards surrounded the 61-year-old Marks, who was seated two rows behind the board members seated in the front, and escorted him outside where police told him he was trespassing, he says. Marks denies threatening or approaching the Wells Fargo board. “I did not go willingly,” he says. “They were dragging me out.”
After Wells Fargo fired thousands of employees, including former CEO John Stumpf and consumer banking chief Carrie Tolstedt, and clawed back more than $180 million in executive pay over the phony accounts scandal, angry shareholders have lately shifted more blame to the bank’s board of directors.
Those 15 board members are now fighting for their jobs at the annual meeting, when shareholders will vote on whether to re-elect or replace them. Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy adviser which holds large influence over investors, recommended earlier this month that shareholders vote against 12 of the 15 members of Wells Fargo’s board.
Marks, who spoke out of turn at the meeting before Wells Fargo was prepared to take shareholder questions, had asked the board members to individually address “whether they were complicit or whether they were incompetent” when the bank’s employees were opening up phony accounts.
He was not alone in his concerns. At least two other shareholders interjected without being called on to berate the board and demand the directors speak for themselves, prompting Wells Fargo executives to again threaten to pause the meeting. “You want to have order, but it’s all been out of order,” one unnamed shareholder shouted.
Still, as shareholders’ votes were being tallied, the Wall Street Journal reported that all 15 board members were likely to win re-election.