Lending

Maxine Waters accuses Wells Fargo execs of dodging fake account inquiries

Says execs questioned by Republicans, but won't sit for Democrats

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Wells Fargo executives are dodging additional Congressional inquiries into the bank’s massive fake accounts scandal, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Financial Services Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said last week in a letter sent to Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan.

In the letter, Waters says that several Wells Fargo execs, including Sloan, sat for “unrecorded interviews” in December with the Republican staff of the House Financial Services Committee, but have not done the same with the Democrats’ staff despite repeated requests.

According to Waters’ letter, Sloan, John Shrewsberry, Wells Fargo’s chief financial officer; James Strother, Wells Fargo’s general counsel; and Michael Loughlin, Wells Fargo’s chief risk officer, were interviewed over three consecutive days in early December by the committee’s Republican staff.

Waters states that her staff sent repeated emails to Wells Fargo’s attorneys with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to request similar unrecorded interviews, to no avail.

“These emails were sent on Dec. 21, 2016, Jan. 4, 2017, Jan. 11, 2017, Feb. 6, 2017 and March 3, 2017,” Waters writes. “My staff has been repeatedly told that your attorneys are ‘working on getting [us] an answer.’”

Waters then goes on to personally accuse Sloan of being disingenuous with her about the fake account inquiry requests.

“Additionally, in a recent conversation in which you called to inform me of Wells Fargo’s commitment to increasing homeownership rates among African Americans, I expressed my dissatisfaction with your failure to respond to my staff’s request for unrecorded interviews,” Waters writes. “You personally assured me that you would look into the matter. My staff again followed up with your attorneys after our call and was again told that they ‘did not have an answer.’”

As the letter continues, Waters suggests that Wells Fargo’s treatment of the Democrats’ inquiry is on par with how Wells Fargo treats its customers – a comparison that is not meant to flatter.

“If this is indicative of how Wells Fargo responds to its customers, I can understand why so many of them are upset with their treatment.” Waters writes.

Waters then adds that she has no intention of ending her investigation into how 5,000 of the bank’s former employees opened as many as 2 million accounts without authorization in order to get sales bonuses.

“While I recognize that Wells Fargo may have settled with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Los Angeles City Attorney, the countless revelations in the press of Wells Fargo’s egregious behavior and your failure to agree to participate in interviews with Democratic staff tell me that this Committee’s investigation is far from over,” Waters writes.

Waters concludes by asking again for the opportunity to interview Wells Fargo execs about the fake accounts.

“As such, I reiterate my request that Wells Fargo provide Democratic Committee staff the same opportunity it provided to Republican Committee staff to meet with the aforementioned executives for unrecorded interviews,” Waters concludes. “Scheduling these interviews would be a small step in reassuring me and my staff that Wells Fargo is sincere when it says it wants to ‘make things right’ for its customers.”

Waters asks Wells Fargo to respond to her no later than March 30, 2017.

When contacted by HousingWire about the contents of Waters’ letter, Wells Fargo said that the bank is working with Congress on its inquiry and plans to continue to do so.

“Wells Fargo is committed to building a better bank and restoring the trust of our stakeholders,” Wells Fargo said in a statement provided to HousingWire.

“We have fully cooperated with the House Financial Services Committee’s investigation, including by voluntarily participating in the September 2016 hearing, producing over 140,000 pages of documents, answering more than 50 written and numerous oral questions, and making our most senior leadership available for interviews,” Wells Fargo’s statement continued. “We are committed to providing the Committee what it needs to conduct its inquiry and to responding appropriately to Committee requests.”

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