Elizabeth Warren’s epic takedown of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf may be her finest moment yet.
Stumpf, who is being pressured to resign from his post in the wake of a massive scandal involving the bank’s intentional fleecing of millions of customers, was just thoroughly embarrassed during a senate hearing. Every time Stumpf tried to deflect Warren’s questions, she interjected and refused to let him off the hook. Throughout her line of questioning, she used the Wells Fargo mission statement and Stumpf’s own words to shame him.
WARREN: “Since this massive, years-long scam came to light, you have said, repeatedly, ‘I am accountable.’ But what have you actually done to hold yourself accountable? Have you resigned as CEO or chairman of Wells Fargo?
STUMPF: “The board I serve–
WARREN: “Have you resigned?”
STUMPF: “No, I have not.”
WARREN: “Alright. Have you returned one nickel of the millions of dollars you were paid while this scam was going on?”
STUMPF: “Well, first of all, this was by one percent of our people, and–”
WARREN: “That’s not my question. It’s about responsibility. Have you returned one nickel of the millions of dollars that you were paid while this scam was going on?”
STUMPF: “The, the board will take care of that.”
WARREN: “Have you returned one nickel of the money you earned while this scam was going on?”
STUMPF: “And, and the board will do–”
WARREN: “I’ll take that as a no, then. And have you fired a single senior executive, and by that, I don’t mean a regional manager or branch manager. I’m asking about the people who actually led your community banking division or your compliance division.”
STUMPF: “We’ve made a change in our regional, to lead our regional bank.”
WARREN: “I just said I’m not talking about regional managers, I’m not asking about branch managers. I’m asking if you have fired senior management. The people who actually led the community banking division, who oversaw this fraud, or the compliance division who was in charge of making sure that the bank complied with the law. Did you fire any of those people?”
WARREN: “No. OK. So 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 people who don’t have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership.”
Wells Fargo was fined nearly $200 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this month for perpetuating an ongoing scam of opening accounts and credit cards on behalf of customers without their knowledge or consent, then proceeding to fine those customers late fees and overdraft charges in order to drive sales numbers higher. As of this writing, CEO and chairman John Stumpf has not been criminally charged for his bank’s actions.
Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or friend him on Facebook.