FILE PHOTO: A Wells Fargo branch is seen in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, U.S. on February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo
August 1, 2017
By Patrick Rucker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic lawmakers pushed on Tuesday for another chance to question Wells Fargo & Co’s <WFC.N> leadership about sales practices after the scandal-hit bank said it forced auto insurance on borrowers who did not need it.
Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee asked its Republican leaders in a letter to summon Wells Fargo Chairman Stephen Sanger and Chief Executive Tim Sloan.
That letter accompanied one sent by Representative Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, who wants to know how Wells Fargo wrongly charged roughly 570,000 customers for auto insurance they did not ask for or need, leading to unwarranted delinquencies and car repossessions.
Unwanted auto insurance is the latest wrinkle in a months-long scandal over sales practices at Wells Fargo, where employees also created as many as 2.1 million deposit and credit card accounts in customers’ names without their permission.
“Members should have the opportunity to question Mr. Sloan about the bank’s progress in addressing the damage it did to its customers,” said the Senate letter, signed by Democrats including ranking member Sherrod Brown.
A spokeswoman for Wells Fargo said the bank looked forward to answering questions from Washington.
“Wells Fargo understands and is committed to addressing policymaker concerns,” said Jennifer Dunn. “We are committed to fixing these mistakes and earning back trust.”
Employees have said they created unauthorized accounts to hit sales goals handed down by management. The creation of fake accounts and misplaced insurance charges went on for years before the bank’s management took action.
After Wells Fargo reached a $190 million settlement with regulators over the fake accounts in September, its then-Chairman and CEO John Stumpf appeared before both committees to face questions from lawmakers at heated hearings. He left the bank shortly after, to be replaced by Sloan and Sanger.
Whether Stumpf’s successors will be hauled before Congress publicly is uncertain. Only Republicans can summon witnesses, since that party controls Congress.
The senate letter urged Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, who chairs the banking panel, to call a Wells Fargo hearing in September.
Democrats want to know how the auto insurance and unauthorized accounts practices went on undetected, and Wells Fargo plans to compensate customers who were wrongly charged for insurance, according to the letter.
(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Tom Brown)