Lawmakers grill Wells Fargo CEO about scandals

The U.S. Capitol

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) grilled Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan over the bank's financing of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Several lawmakers noted that Wells had been fined by every agency it is regulated by and Sloan said that by his count, the bank is now under 14 consent decrees with those agencies.

Timothy Sloan testified in the House Financial Services Committee Hearing meant to hold "megabanks" accountable.

"... Wells Fargo's ongoing lawlessness and failure to right the ship suggest the bank, with approximately $1.9 trillion in assets and serving one in three United States households, is simply too big to manage".

Ocasio-Cortez then turned to global warming issues surrounding the financing of various oil pipelines. The bank has been working to address widespread abuses that have made it a target for both major parties and President Donald Trump, dragging on its stock and prompting the Federal Reserve to impose an unprecedented ban on growth.

Sloan said the bank has made amends.

She quickly pivoted to whether Wells Fargo should have to pay for environmental clean-up when one of the projects the bank financed, like the Dakota Access Pipeline, goes awry.

"You've not been able to keep Wells Fargo out of trouble".

"I don't know why our lawyers are arguing that", said Sloan, who is personally named as a defendant in the case, which is moving through federal court. He said it isn't up to banks to enforce legislation that doesn't exist.

Sloan faced hours of aggressive questioning from both Republicans and Democrats.

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"The issue within the institution was not a matter of size, it was a matter of culture", Barr said.

He asked Sloan if the scandals were over, or if more negative headlines would surface. Waters asked. "Is Wells Fargo too big to manage?"

"It's my job as CEO to make sure things change and they are changing", Sloan said. In another contentious exchange, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) asked Sloan whether Wells Fargo would allow disgruntled customers to sue rather than forcing them into arbitration.

The board has credited him for rooting out and fixing past problems, addressing regulators' concerns, tightening internal oversight and taking other steps to improve earnings.

Sloan's prepared testimony is a strong start, "but what really matters is how he responds to the attacks that will be coming (Tuesday)" Jaret Seiberg, a Washington, D.C., bank analyst with Cowen and Company, wrote in a report Monday. They're planning a series of sessions this year to examine big banks and may call in other CEOs in coming months.

Among a litany of scandals in recent years was Wells' acknowledging that its employees had opened up to 3.5 million accounts without customers' authorization or knowledge in order to meet sales quotas.

The 2016 revelation that Wells Fargo created millions of fake customer accounts prompted regulatory probes into mortgage foreclosures, auto insurance sales and its wealth management businesses, resulting in billions of dollars in fines.

He declined however to give the committee confidential information on the progress of the bank's various remediation efforts, and firmly rebuffed claims by Waters that the bank should be broken up.

The committee's ranking Republican, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, said his party wouldn't show any sympathy for Wells Fargo.

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