The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) banned former Wells Fargo Bank CEO John Stumpf from participating in the banking industry Thursday.
In settling with the OCC, Stumpf also agreed to pay a $17.5 million civil penalty to resolve longstanding problems during his tenure at the bank. Stumpf reached his deal with the OCC without admitting any wrongdoing.
By taking action against Stumpf and other former executives at Wells Fargo, the OCC is reinforcing “the agency’s expectations that management and employees of national banks and federal savings associations provide fair access to financial services, treat customers fairly, and comply with applicable laws and regulations,” said Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting in a press release.
Others caught up in ‘systemic problems’
At the time the OCC disclosed its arrangement with Stumpf, it also announced settlements with Hope Hardison, former chief administrative officer and director of corporate human resources at Wells Fargo, and Michael Loughlin, former chief risk officer at the bank. Hardison agreed to pay a $2.25 million penalty, and Loughlin is on the hook for $1.25 million.
In addition, the OCC issued a notice of charges seeking to fine Carrie Tolstedt, the former head of the community bank at Wells Fargo, and four others—former General Counsel James Strother, former Chief Auditor David Julian, former Executive Audit Director Paul McLinko, and former Community Bank Group Risk Officer Claudia Russ Anderson. The OCC maintains Russ Anderson also “actively obstructed” examination of the bank’s sales practices and made “false and misleading” statements to the OCC.
The OCC’s actions stem from the executives’ alleged failure to “adequately perform” their jobs, which, in turn, “contributed to the bank’s systemic problems with sales practices misconduct” from 2002 through 2016, the OCC wrote.
Drill down of Stumpf’s deal
The OCC order detailing Stumpf’s settlement with the government offered a performance appraisal of sorts that was not exactly positive. Stumpf “was or should have been” aware of the “systemic sales practices” going on at the bank as well as the “root cause” of that problem, the OCC wrote. Stumpf “failed to adequately supervise” the head of the community bank, “failed to sufficiently challenge” the community bank’s business model, “neglected to adequately inform himself” about unreasonable sales goals, and also “failed to respond to numerous warning signs,” the OCC went on. The agency then proceeded to fine Stumpf $17.5 million while noting he had previously forfeited $41 million in unvested equity awards as well as his 2016 bonus and salary.
Media outlets have widely reported the OCC has issued a “lifetime ban” barring Stumpf from the banking industry, and indeed, the OCC order does explain Stumpf has agreed not to participate in the industry. The order does contain verbiage, though, that this so-called ban would no longer apply if Stumpf obtains written consent from the OCC as well as from a particular institution’s federal regulatory agency.
Time and money
Some might wonder how severe these consequences are given Stumpf’s accumulated wealth as well as his age (66). Is a “ban” from working in an industry when you are essentially at retirement age really much of a punishment?
It is perhaps a point that did not escape Sen. (and presidential candidate) Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who tweeted, “It’s not accountability” for Stumpf to give back “a fraction of the millions he made.” According to Warren, Stumpf “oversaw a scam that hurt hundreds of thousands of customers and cost workers their jobs.”
“Giant banks like @WellsFargo & CEOs like John Stumpf will only clean up their act when their executives know they’ll face handcuffs when they preside over massive fraud,” Warren maintained.
I've said it for years: giant banks like @WellsFargo & CEOs like John Stumpf will only clean up their act when their executives know they’ll face handcuffs when they preside over massive fraud. pic.twitter.com/xiTSi08r7b— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) January 24, 2020
Calling the OCC’s actions “a step toward accountability” at Wells Fargo, Patrick Creaven, a communications associate at the bank as well as a member of the Committee for Better Banks, said the government’s charges “will not bring justice for employees who were unfairly scapegoated, or change the corrupt system in place at Wells Fargo that fueled the disastrous sales scandal of 2016 in the first place.”
Wells Fargo’s current CEO, Charlie Scharf, wrote in letter to all employees that the bank would not “make any remaining compensation payments that may be owed” to the former executives caught in the OCC’s enforcement actions—at least “while we review the filings.” Scharf maintained the bank has made “fundamental changes” to its business model, compensation programs, leadership, and governance over the last few years.
Lori Tripoli is a writer based in the greater New York City area who focuses on legal and regulatory issues.