Elizabeth Warren Calls Out Bank CEO On National Television for "Gutless Leadership"
Wells Fargo C.E.O. John Stumpf hasn't exactly had an easy go of it over the last few weeks. His bank was fined $185 million after it came to light that employees had created millions of unauthorized, fake accounts in order to reap sales bonuses over the course of five years. He let 5,300 workers go as a result, watched his stock drop, and lost more than $1 billion in a single day for prominent shareholder Warren Buffett.
Senator Elizabeth Warren made sure he recognized all these things at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Tuesday, in which she called for him to step down and demanded regulators investigate him for his "gutless leadership."
"You should resign. . . . You should be criminally investigated," she said, barely pausing long enough to let Stumpf utter more than a few words at a time. "You haven't resigned, you haven't returned a single nickel of your personal earnings, you haven't fired a single senior executive. 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."
She noted that Stumpf personally benefited, as Wells Fargo stock climbed over the last five years, while the bank's employees were setting up the phony accounts. "You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket," Warren said.
Sen. Warren slams Wells Fargo CEO for "pushing blame" on lower level employees, says "it's gutless leadership". pic.twitter.com/3p2kebseDb— CNBC (@CNBC) September 20, 2016
"You should give back the money that 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. This just isn't right," she added, before yielding the floor.
Stumpf did apologize in the hearing, clarifying that this was not an "orchestrated effort" or a "scheme," and what happened went against the "values, ethics, and culture, and runs counter to our business strategy" at Wells Fargo.
"I am deeply sorry that we failed to fulfill our responsibility to our customers, to our team members, and to the American public," he told the committee. The bank previously took responsibility for the scandal earlier this month. Read the full exchange between the two, and Warren’s brutal take-down, as transcribed by CNBC here:
More From Vanity Fair:
• Elizabeth Warren Emerges as Hillary Clinton’s Progressive Nemesis
• Elizabeth Warren Is Clinton’s Real-Life Anger Translator
• Elizabeth Warren Slams Republicans for Holding Government Hostage over Planned Parenthood
• Elizabeth Warren Proposed to Her Husband Because That’s How She Rolls
Photo Credit: Getty images