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The many compliance lessons of Wells Fargo

Joe Mont | September 20, 2016

If you were tasked with writing a “compliance 101” textbook, it might be very tempting to put Wells Fargo’s famous stagecoach logo on the cover. The story behind its recent $185 million in fines by various authorities, and the long list of questions it prompts, touch upon nearly every hot button issue in regulation, enforcement, ethics, and corporate governance.

On Sept. 8, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that Wells Fargo Bank, a subsidiary of Wells Fargo & Co., was fined $100 million for “the widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.” There was also a $35 million penalty from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and $50 million by the City and County of Los Angeles for infractions that date back to 2011. Employees opened more than two million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized by consumers.

Aside from the immediacy of the problem, the news should...

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