Wells Fargo to face irritated shareholders at annual meeting
Wells Fargo’s top management and board of directors will face irritated investors Tuesday for the first big shareholder meeting since the scandal over the bank’s sales practices led to an executive shake-up, fines and a dented reputation.
The bank has changed the way it pays branch employees, reclaimed promised compensation to several executives and apologized to customers after regulators imposed $185 million in fines last September. Authorities said Wells Fargo workers opened up to 2 million accounts without customer permission as employees tried to meet aggressive sales goals.
It’s likely that Wells Fargo’s top management will apologize to shareholders — a new, and arguably more patient, audience — following apologies already given to customers and employees. CEO Tim Sloan, who got that job in October, has repeatedly talked of making things right with customers. Whether the changes will be enough — Wells has seen a sharp decline in new customers and remains under investigation by various authorities — is a main issue to be decided Tuesday.
Wells Fargo’s executives are expected to face calls for their ouster. Shareholder proposals call for an overhaul of the bank’s corporate governance as well as more investigations into the pressure-filled corporate culture that some bank employees say pushed them to open the fake accounts.
An investigation by the bank’s own board of directors, released earlier this month, found that the problems at Wells Fargo and its overly aggressive sales culture date back at least 15 years, and that executives had little interest in dealing with the issue until it spiraled out of control. It also clawed back another $75 million in pay from former CEO John Stumpf and former community bank executive Carrie Tolstedt, saying both dragged their feet for years about the problems.