Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf told the Senate Banking Committee he was “deeply sorry” Tuesday over allegations the bank opened millions of accounts without customers’ permission in order to meet aggressive sales quotas.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren was having none of it.
The Massachusetts senator has built a reputation for being tough on shady Wall Street dealings and the executives she believes are responsible. But she took it to the next level with Stumpf.
“OK, so you haven’t resigned. You haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings. You haven’t fired a single senior executive,” Warren said. “Instead, evidently, your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy P.R. firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership.”
Stumpf — who earned $19.3 million last year — said he was “deeply sorry that we failed to fulfill our responsibility to our customers, to our team members, and to the American public,” but he rejected calls to return any executive compensation. He said he wanted to be “very clear that there was no orchestrated effort, or scheme as some have called it, by the company.”
Carrie Tolstedt, who ran the unit that created the unauthorized accounts, retired in July with an estimated $125 million in stock options.
“Did you consider firing her?” Warren asked Stumpf of Tolstedt.
“No,” Stumpf replied.
“Seriously?!” Warren responded, incredulously.
Wells Fargo has fired about 5,300 employees over the fake accounts. Those accounts led to $2.6 million in fees to affected customers that have since been refunded. The company has agreed to pay $185 million as part of a civil settlement.