Recently “retired” Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf claimed before Congress that he first learned about the bank’s fake account fiasco in 2013, but a new report claims that a Wells employee tried to warn him about the problem back in 2007.
This is according to a CNNmoney article about a newly uncovered letter allegedly sent to Stumpf in Sept. 2007, only three months after the executive had taken over the reins as CEO.
In the letter, a Wells employee from California claims that they had already tried to alert regional management about one particular banker’s unethical behavior, but that the banker retaliated by alleging harassment, resulting in the aspiring whistleblower being suspended for seven months during the resulting internal investigation.
The letter writer doesn’t get into specifics of the alleged fraud, but there are numerous indications that the actions they refer to are similar to the system-gaming that has landed Wells Fargo in the spotlight: opening fake accounts to meet high-pressure sales goals and quotas.
The employee notes that the activity they complained about “is conducted under fraudulent pretense for the sole and singular purpose of acquiring sales and bonus compensation,” but that “At no point has Wells Fargo Bank earned revenue or do our customers receive benefit.”
While the letter writer’s original complaint appeared to involve only one banker, they claim in the letter that the problem was so “widespread” and so “highly encouraged” in their region (Northern California), that it has “become a normal sales practice.”
The warning correctly predicts the fallout that would eventually result once the public learned of these machinations: “professional and reputational damage, consumer fraud and shareholder lawsuits… regulatory sanctions.”
Whether Stumpf ever saw this letter — or a second one allegedly sent by the same employee to the Bank’s Audit Committee — is uncertain, but the claims made by the employee do appear to mesh with other evidence that the fake account fraud goes back a decade or more.
After Stumpf told Congress that the bank was investigating the fraud by researching account histories as far back as 2009, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY) presented him with documents from a lawsuit filed by former employees of the bank that seemed to indicate that Wells bankers were opening unauthorized accounts in 2007.
Another letter, sent in late 2005 to Wells exec Carrie Tolstedt — who would go on to head up the bank’s retail division before suddenly retiring this summer before the scandal broke publicly — tried to warn Wells Fargo higher-ups of “blatant gaming” that was being ignored by management.
by Chris Morran via Consumerist