Wells Fargo devotes a series of digital pages on their website to convey their commitment to their corporate vision which states:
“We want to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially.”
This simple and succinct mantra is said to serve as the foundation for everything they do as one of the nation’s largest financial institutions. Further they state:
“Our vision has nothing to do with transactions, selling products, or getting bigger for the sake of bigness. It’s about building lifelong relationships one customer at a time.”
While marketing teams and website designers took great care to develop and display content to tell customers how much they were valued, other departments within Wells Fargo were hard at work fulfilling another vision. But just whose vision it was is still under investigation.
On September 8 of this year Wells Fargo was slapped with a $185 million fine by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Los Angeles City Attorney, and the Office of the Comptrollers of the Currency who alleged “that more than 2 million bank accounts or credit cards were opened or applied for without customers’ knowledge or permission between May 2011 and July 2015,” according to ABC News.
Things moved quickly from there, at least by government standards. Beginning on September 20, John Stumpf, then chairman and chief executive officer of Wells Fargo was grilled at hearings in front of members of Congress.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, blasted Stumpf calling for him to resign and face criminal charges. Just a week earlier, Stumpf made his stance clear telling CNBC’s Jim Cramer during an interview, “I think the best thing I could do right now is lead this company, and lead this company forward.” On October 12, Wells Fargo announced Stumpf’s retirement effective immediately.
Wells Fargo has fired some 5,300 employees who they said were behind the fraudulent accounts that allowed employees to increase their sales figures and their income while bringing the bank unwarranted fees.
What remains to be seen is how bank officials and managers within this mammoth financial institution that serves one-in-three households and employs one-in-600 working Americans – not to mention their vast global footprint – were unaware that this illegal activity was happening under their watch. Just who was aware of what, and at what level did they serve in the company is still unknown.
Currently, Wells Fargo is the target of several investigations to determine the enormity of fraudulent activity within the institution. The California Attorney, General Kamala Harris has launched the latest investigation to determine if bank employees committed false impersonation and identity theft. ABC news reports that “investigators have requested the names and other identifying information for employees and managers who may have opened or authorized the opening of accounts allegedly without customers’ permission.”
According to CNN, Wells Fargo announced that the number of consumer checking accounts opened in September fell 25% below the same month in 2015. In October, the beleaguered bank answered by turning to their marketing team who launched a media campaign built restore trust in its brand.
One 30-second television ad leads with:
“Wells Fargo is making changes to make things right.”
They must have gone back to their website and reread their corporate vision statement.
This article was written by Jude Scinta for the November 2016 issue of The Suit Magazine.