Society

Wells Fargo CEO Made Millions Before Admitting Fraud

| by Zach Cohen
John Stumpf testifies before congressJohn Stumpf testifies before congress

Recently ousted Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf sold $61 million worth of company stock the month before the company settled with federal regulators over allegations of fraud.

Chicago securities lawyer Andrew Stoltmann told CBS that the sale might constitute insider trading. The law prohibits company insiders from profiting on stock trades based on unpublished corporate information.

"At a minimum," Stoltmann said, "the optics are horrific for Stumpf and for Wells Fargo. I would be shocked if the Securities and Exchange Commission doesn't look heavily into this."

Stumpf announced his retirement on Oct. 12, just two weeks after lawmakers called for his resignation, according to Business Insider. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren also called for a criminal investigation, and said that the SEC should explore whether Stumpf knowingly misled investors.

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CNN Money estimates that Stumpf left Wells Fargo with around $130 million, with $107 million coming from the company's stock. He was on track to make almost $200 million, but agreed to forfeit $41 million in stock in addition to his 2016 salary and bonuses.

In 2015, Stumpf received $4 million in awards for growing "primary consumer, small business, and banking checking customers," an accolade directly related to the bank's fraudulent account creations. He was also rewarded for "reinforcing a culture of risk management and accountability across the company."

Stumpf's profits could be subject to clawbacks, and his retirement doesn't preclude further actions against him.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale-based corporate governance expert, told CNN that the bank should rescind shares awarded to Stumpf for reaching "cross-selling" targets, a sales tactic that led to the opening of 2 million fake accounts.

Robert Weissman, president of activist group Public Citizen, said "The retirement is essentially an admission of wrongdoing that only reinforces the need to continue tough criminal investigations." 

Jaret Seiberg, managing director at Cowen and Company, says the scandal doesn't end with Stumpf's retirement. "We continue to expect that Wells Fargo will be bogged down in this controversy for the next two years." 

Following the news of Stumpf's departure, Business Insider reports that the bank's stock price rose 1.6% to $46.05.

Sources: CBS, CNN Money (2), Business Insider / Photo Source: Tom Williams of CQ Roll Call via UPI

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