Wells Fargo: Bull$h!t and the impact of crooked leadership

I hate to call anyone a crook. It sounds unseemly and judgmental, and just a tad juvenile…

Ah, to hell with that. Wells Fargo, you guys are a bunch of crooks. Specifically, the leadership involved in the fraudulent account processing debacle. hiresYes, the leadership, not the schmucks that
leadership whacked in the process.

The numbers, for you analytical types:

  • 565,443 — The number of unauthorized credit card applications filed by Wells Fargo’s community banking division
  • 1,534,280 — The number of unauthorized deposit accounts opened by Wells Fargo’s community banking division
  • 5,300+ — The number of schmucks (mentioned above) fired for actually opening these fraudulent accounts
  • $185,000,000 — The amount of the fine levied on Wells Fargo for this fraudulent activity
  • $200,000,000 — The amount of stock held by John Stumpf (just “Stumpy” from here on)
  • $19,000,000 — The amount of money Stumpy hauled in last year.
  • $125,000,000 — The amount to be paid to Carrie Tolstedt, the executive in charge of these fraudulent activities
  • $20,000,000,000 — The approximate dollars in annual profit made by Wells Fargo
  • 0 — The number of senior leaders held accountable for this travesty

Here’s the deal… there’s simply no way that 5,300 people–all doing the same job for the same division–can be fired for fraudulent (potentially criminal) acts, and no one in real leadership was aware of the problem. Just no way. Think about it–that many people whacked, same division, same job, all for fraudulent activities in a bank. And no one noticed? That’s your story? Seriously?

I call bullshit.

If you hold a gun to someone’s head and say, slap Bill over there or I’ll pull the trigger, well, Bill’s about to get slapped. It doesn’t matter that you aren’t the violent type, that you’ve never hit anyone in your life, or that Bill is a helluva good guy. None of that matters. What matters is you have a gun to your head. The schmucks fired at Wells Fargo, all likely justified for doing something way wrong, had guns to their heads.

Over aggressive daily sales quotas; hourly (yes, you read that right)–hourly–conference calls to make sure your quotas are on track; after-school detention overtime and forced marches on Saturdays for anyone coming up short. And if you came up short after two months, you got whacked. I’d say that feels like a gun to the head. Held there by senior leadership at Wells Fargo.

The push was relentless, and making these arguably unreasonable quotas was not simply an issue of performance–some personal bankers had as much as 20% of their total compensation tied up in sales commissions from these extra accounts. In other words, another gun. I’m not excusing criminal or unethical behavior by those doing it; the firings were likely justified, and behavior like that is deplorable no matter the incentive. But to just punish over 5,000 workers while senior leadership is not just held unaccountable, but rewarded with mucho dinero?

In a 2013 interview, Wells Fargo CFO Timothy Sloan said “I’m not aware of any overbearing sales culture.” Where’s that bullshit flag again…? I’m throwing it. Of course, Timmy had good reason for–and was rewarded for–his ignorance; he’s been promoted twice since that interview, and is now heir apparent to Stumpy himself. Things that make you go hmmm. I’m certain it’s just a coincidence…

Stumpy doubled-down on his perception of executive innocence in a Sep 13 WSJ article, stating “There was no incentive to do bad things,” and that “…some employees didn’t honor the bank’s culture.” And what, exactly, might that culture be, bigshot? My favorite Stumpy quote: “I feel accountable.” Not “I am accountable.” Tweeeeet! Throwing my flag again…

Leadership matters. Ethics, integrity, even simple honesty, are all driven from the top. That which you condone, allow or permit, through action, inaction or positive consequence, is what you get. Culture really is that simple. Honest leaders get honest employees (for the most part). Ethical senior leadership promotes ethics and integrity throughout. Conversely, fast-and-loose behavior at the top creates a culture of shady corner-cutting throughout the organization. Plausible deniability is a good movie line, but it sucks when used by senior leaders to allow bad behaviors to boost profits.

cartoon-characters-flying-money_m1_xmsud_lThis is Stumpy.

Stumpy likes money

Stumpy doesn’t question where it comes from

Stumpy’s people get him money

Stumpy makes lots of money

Don’t be like Stumpy



Be Brazen…


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