As Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren verbally eviscerated the banking executive like a master chef slicing filets of salmon. Besides referring to the dishonest banker as “incompetent” and possibly “complicit” in Wells Fargo’s recently exposed financial crimes against their own customers, Warren explicitly told Sloan, “You should be fired!”
While discussing the bank’s creation of more than 3.5 million unauthorized accounts and other sales violations during the hearing at Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Sen. Warren reminded Sloan, “From 2011 to 2014, at the height of when Wells Fargo was cheating customers by opening false accounts, you served as the chief financial officer. As CFO, you spoke to potential Wells Fargo investors a lot. On those calls, you aggressively promoted Wells Fargo ability to open up new accounts, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t,” Sloan replied.
“No, you didn’t?” Warren asked.
“No,” Sloan repeated while tightening his lips.
Like a television cop suddenly pulling out a key piece of evidence, Warren produced a large black binder filled with transcripts and rebutted, “Well, here are the transcripts from all of the investors’ earnings calls that you participated in from 2011 to 2014. I’ve read through them and on these calls, no one, not even John Stumpf who was the CEO at the time, bragged more about Wells Fargo’s ability and commitment to open new accounts for existing customers.
“In the April 2011 call for example, I think I’ve marked that one, you said, ‘I can’t wait to get a credit card in every one of our credit worthy customer’s wallets.’ Nothing about whether your customers wanted or needed a Wells Fargo credit card. All that mattered was opening new accounts. So while you were bragging to investors about opening new accounts on these calls from 2011 to 2014, you also personally owned roughly 2 million shares of Wells Fargo stocks. Is that right?”
As Sloan attempted to evade her query, Warren pointed out that his stock holdings are in the public record and have been confirmed by his SEC filings. When asked if he immediately opened an investigation into the bank’s practice of opening fraudulent accounts after reports began surfacing last year, Sloan repeatedly failed to redirect her question.
“Mr. Sloan, you were asked about pressure on employees, which caused the fake accounts scandal,” Warren continued. “We all know that now – it’s public. You knew there was a problem, and when you were asked about it, you lied. This is about personal responsibility. Wells Fargo cheated millions of people for years. The Federal Reserve should remove all of the current board members who served during the fake account scandal. And Mr. Sloan, you say you’ve been making changes at Wells Fargo for 30 years, but you enabled this fake account scam, you got rich off it, and then you tried to cover it up. At best, you are incompetent. At worst, you are complicit. Either way, you should be fired! Wells Fargo needs to start over and that won’t happen until the bank rids itself of people like you who led it into this crisis.”
Sloan responded, “As it relates to me, again, I think the reason that I’m the right person to run this company today, notwithstanding your criticism, is because I have been making changes at this company for 30 years. I have made mistakes, I certainly haven’t been perfect, but I think having that knowledge of the company, having the ability to make the change, the actions that I’ve taken since I’ve become CEO 11 months ago, have made fundamental change at this company. So I’m not afraid to make hard decisions when it’s needed, and I have the support of 247,000 people. That’s why I think I’m the right person.”
Fed up with his incessant dripping of verbal diarrhea, Warren directly asked Sloan, “Are you kidding? You know, look. You’ve been there for 30 years and every one of my colleagues, on both the Republican side and the Democratic side, who have spoken so far have talked about a broken culture at Wells Fargo, have talked about the fact that the problem starts with leadership. The people who were there and leaving Wells Fargo during the time of a years-long scam, and multiple scams as our Chairman pointed out, those people should not be left in charge of this business. And when you promote it, exactly what was wrong with this bank, over and over and over – you went to the stock market, and you bragged about it. You made money personally off it. When you were asked about it, you did not tell the truth, and you tried to cover it up. Wells Fargo is not going to change with you in charge.”