November 18, 2016

Brown: Wells Fargo Must Stop Stonewalling on Phony Accounts Scandal

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – today criticized Wells Fargo for failing to answer key questions stemming from its former chief executive’s testimony in September on the bank’s unauthorized accounts scandal.

Brown released Wells Fargo’s responses to dozens of questions for the record Banking Committee Democrats had posed to then-Chairman and CEO John Stumpf following his testimony before the panel on Sept. 20. The questions included at least 20 inquiries that Stumpf was unable to answer, or promised to provide more information during the hearing, as well as additional queries that emerged following his testimony.

Brown said today that Wells Fargo either ignored or provided insufficient responses to a host of the Senators’ questions, which were submitted over a month ago. In several instances, Wells Fargo declined to provide direct answers, citing an ongoing investigation that its board is conducting.

“It seems unlikely that Wells Fargo can restore the trust of its customers if it continues to ignore or dodge basic questions about the causes and consequences of the fraud that it permitted for years,” Brown said. “The bank’s illegal actions and its continued stonewalling show why so many hard-working Americans believe the system is rigged against them in Wall Street’s favor. This issue isn’t going away and I will do everything in my power to make sure the Banking Committee keeps pushing to get to the bottom of it, so we can protect customers from being cheated again.”

The Senators’ written questions were jointly submitted on Sept. 28 by all 10 of the Banking Committee Democrats: Brown, Jack Reed (D-RI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).

Key questions from the Senators that Wells Fargo either ignored or did not answer sufficiently include:

  • The precise dates of when Stumpf, Wells Fargo’s board of directors, and Carrie Tolstedt, who led the firm’s community banking unit, learned that thousands of the bank’s employees were defrauding customers nationwide. (Questions 1-2, 9-11)

  • Email and other correspondence between Stumpf, Tolstedt, and the board related to the fraud. (Questions 12, 15, 16)

  • Information about whether the bank referred personnel to law enforcement. (Question 19)

  • Whether Wells Fargo has instructed Transunion, Equifax and Experian, and any other credit bureaus, to determine and remediate any possible harm resulting from the opening of, and activity on, unauthorized credit cards. (Question 41)

  • Board or Compensation Committee minutes describing (1) discussion of the pending Wells Fargo settlement and any impact it had on Tolstedt's decision to retire, (2) discussion of termination or any other penalty for Tolstedt in relation to her role in the Wells Fargo actions that resulted in the [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] settlement; (3) the impact of Tolstedt's decision to retire on her final compensation. (Question 45)

  • Whether Wells Fargo will commit to permitting customers to bring disputes related to these actions in court, rather than forcing them into arbitration. (Question 58)

The complete set of questions and Wells Fargo’s responses can be found here.