“Mr. Stumpf, the Wells Fargo Vision and Values statement [pdf], which you frequently cite, says, quote, ‘We believe in values lived, not phrases memorized. If you want to find out how strong a company’s ethics are, don’t listen to what its people say; watch what they do.’ So, let’s do that.”
So began Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s nearly nine-minute grilling of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf during his testimony in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday.
The embattled CEO fumbled over his words at times as he attempted to answer the Massachusetts senator’s direct and pointed questions.
The hearing came just weeks after Wells Fargo was slapped with a $185 million penalty by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for fraudulently opening over 2 million phony bank accounts in the names of unknowing customers.
Warren asked Stumpf, “Since this massive, yearslong scam came to light, you have said repeatedly, ‘I am accountable,’ but what have you actually done to hold yourself accountable? Have you resigned as CEO or chairman of Wells Fargo?”
As Stumpf attempted to offer what appeared to be a prepared response to Warren’s question, she cut him off and prodded him again, asking, “Have you resigned?”
“No, I have not,” Stumpf said.
“Have you returned one nickel of the millions of dollars that you were paid while this scam was going on?” Warren asked.
Again, Stumpf tried to offer up “1 percent” of employees as the culprits of the scam, to which Warren tersely replied, “That’s not my question. It’s about responsibility.”
Stumpf was unable to answer, and Warren said that she would take that as a no.
Warren asked Stumpf if he had fired “a single” senior executive or anyone other than branch and regional managers—meaning anyone who actually ran a community-banking division or compliance division.
Stumpf said no.
“So you haven’t resigned; you haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings; you haven’t fired a single senior executive,” Warren said. “Instead, evidently, your definition of ‘accountable’ is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy P.R. firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership.”
And that was just within the first three minutes of her interrogation.
Warren went on to highlight how Stumpf had personally benefited from the fraud, noting that he had made almost $200 million in Wells Fargo-stock gains during the time the fraud was going on.
"You should resign,” Warren said. “You should give back the money you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Watch the full hearing on C-SPAN.