The problems at Wells Fargo and its overly aggressive sales culture date back at least 15 years, and management had little interest in dealing with the issue until it spiraled out of control resulting in millions of accounts being opened fraudulently, according to an investigation by the company’s board of directors.
The bank’s board also clawed back another $75 million in pay from two former executives, CEO John Stumpf and community bank executive Carrie Tolstedt, saying both executives dragged their feet for years regarding problems at the second-largest U.S. bank. Both were ultimately unwilling to accept criticism that the bank’s sales-focused business model was failing.
The 110-page report has been in the works since September, when Wells acknowledged that its employees opened up to 2 million checking and credit card accounts without customers’ authorization. Trying to meet unnaturally high sales goals, Wells employees even created phony email addresses to sign customers up for online banking services.
“(Wells’ management) created pressure on employees to sell unwanted or unneeded products to customers and, in some cases, to open unauthorized accounts,” the board said in its report.
Many current and former employees have talked of intense and constant pressure from managers to sell and open accounts, and some said it pushed them into unethical behavior. The report backs up those employees’ accounts.
“It was common to blame employees who violated Wells Fargo’s rules without analyzing what caused or motivated them to do so … (or determine) whether there were responsible individuals, who while they might have no directed the specific misconduct, contributed to the environment (that caused it),” the board said.
The report also says that problems in the bank’s sales culture date back to at least 2002, far earlier than what the bank had previously said. And that Stumpf knew about sales problems at a branch in Colorado…