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Pressures mount on Wells Fargo following fake-accounts scandal

Pressures mount on Wells Fargo following fake-accounts scandal

The bank is being investigated by the Justice Department for possible criminal charges.
Pressures mount on Wells Fargo following fake-accounts scandal

Pressure mounted on Wells Fargo & Co. Friday following its fake-accounts scandal, as the bank faced new calls to allow affected customers to file lawsuits and for the board of directors to rescind the pay of a key senior executive.

The demands came just one day after Chief Executive John Stumpf resigned from a Federal Reserve advisory panel.

Senators had pushed for Stumpf not to be reappointed, saying it was inappropriate for someone who presided over improper sales tactics to be giving advice to an agency involved with bank regulation.

Stumpf has been under intense fire since the bank this month agreed to pay $185 million to settle investigations by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency into an aggressive sales culture that led bank employees to open as many as 2 million accounts that customers didn't authorize.

The Justice Department is investigating possible criminal charges, and some senators have called for a Labor Department investigation into whether the bank failed to pay employees overtime when they worked late nights and weekend to meet sales quotas.

A group of Senate Democrats continued to attack Wells Fargo on Friday, publicly calling on Stumpf to stop enforcing mandatory arbitration clauses in the agreements for customer accounts that were not authorized.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, had pressed Stumpf on the matter at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing Tuesday, arguing that it was unfair not to allow those customers the ability to file lawsuits against the bank.

Stumpf said at the time that he would have to "talk to my legal team."

Brown said Friday that he and his colleagues want relief for bank customers and more answers from Wells Fargo.

"If Wells Fargo really does want to look out for the customers, if they really are in fact sorry, as the CEO said, for these unauthorized accounts, they ought to let the court system work if these people who were wronged want to bring suit," he said.

The Democrats sent a letter to Stumpf on Friday, requesting more information about the arbitration clauses, including how many customer complaints about fake accounts were forced into arbitration proceedings.

Brown was among those writing to Stumpf, along with Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Al Franken of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also on Friday, an activist investment group that is part of the Change to Win union federation wrote to Wells Fargo's board, asking it to rescind at least part of the compensation earned by the executive who oversaw the employees who opened unauthorized customer accounts.

The letter from CtW Investment Group, which is a Wells Fargo shareholder, adds to the pressure on the bank to claw back some of the approximately $100 million earned by Carrie Tolstedt, the company's former head of community banking.

Wells Fargo's stock has declined by about 8 percent since the settlement was announced on Sept. 8.

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