Both sides of the aisle slam Wells Fargo

by Ryan Smith12 Mar 2019

Wells Fargo CEO faced a withering barrage of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans Tuesday when he testified before the House Financial Services Committee.

The lending giant has been plagued by scandal after scandal over the last two years, from opening millions of unauthorized customer accounts to charging mortgage borrowers fees they didn’t owe and mistakenly foreclosing on hundreds of homeowners. At Tuesday’s hearing, legislators from both sides of the aisle demanded answers as Sloan struggled to defend the bank.

Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) rattled off a list of Wells Fargo’s recent offenses, beginning with its fake-accounts scandal. In that case, bank employees opened customer accounts without those customers’ knowledge in order to meet unrealistically high sales metrics. Waters also accused the bank of being a “recidivist” institution.

“What’s more, this conduct appears to persist, with The New York Times reporting Saturday that Wells Fargo’s employees continue to see internal rule-breaking to meet aggressive sales goals,” Waters said. “…Wells Fargo’s ongoing lawlessness and failure to right the ship suggest the bank, with approximately $1.9 trillion in assets and serving one in three US households, is simply too big to manage.”

Republicans also attacked the bank’s record of misdeeds.

“Can you give me your personal assurance that this is the end of customer harm?” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the committee’s ranking Republican, asked Sloan.

“I can’t promise you perfection,” Sloan said. He said that the company had made changes to corporate policy that would prevent future misdeeds “as best we can.”

McHenry appeared to have little patience with Sloan’s assurances.

“Each time a new scandal breaks, Wells Fargo promises to get to the bottom of it,” he said. “It promises to make sure it won’t happen again. But then a few months later we hear about another case of dishonest sales practices or gross mismanagement, another case of the consumer who has been harmed by the bank’s business practices.”