Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf faced a rapid-fire barrage of pointed questions—and harsh criticisms—from a bipartisan firing squad of congresspeople on Thursday, as the embattled bank boss returned to Capitol Hill to answer for his company's fraudulent practices.
Stumpf sat before the House Financial Services Committee as representative after representative unloaded on him over the recent revelations that Wells Fargo had, for years, engaged in deceptive banking practices, including the unauthorized opening of customer accounts, and credit cards. As a result, the company agreed to pay $185 million dollars in fines, and was forced to fire over 5,000 employees—approximately 1% of its entire workforce.
"Wells Fargo was making a lot of money off of what you were doing, and I think you were hoping you weren’t caught," Republican Sean Duffy admonished Stumpf. During a particularly testy exchange, Stump was forced to admit that "in some cases, [Wells Fargo employees] did" steal from an estimated one to two million customers whose accounts were subject to the bank's fraudulent practices.
Stumpf was also raked over the coals by New York Democrat Gregory Meeks, who likened the CEO's repeated apologies that of a bank robber asking not to be charged with a crime.
If somebody walked into Wells Fargo tomorrow, and robbed your bank, or defrauded your bank, and then after they're caught they say: 'Well I'm sorry. I'm gonna take full responsibility for robbing this bank. And I am sorry that I robbed this bank. So please don't prosecute me, because I am sorry now that I robbed this bank.'
Would you allow the person just to walk out after robbing your bank, because he is now sorry that he robbed this bank after he took the money already?
In a rare moment of biting levity, Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) earned a round of chuckles after he thanked Stumpf for "doing something here today that no other person has been able to do in the last four year—you have brought true bipartisanship to Congress."
"We can't criminally prosecute you," Capuano admitted later. But, he added "your problem is coming. It's not today. You think today's tough? It's coming.
"When the prosecutors get a hold of you, you're gonna have a lot of fun."
Earlier this month, Stumpf faced an equally intense grilling from Capuana's Senate counterpart Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who slammed the CEO for "gutless leadership, and urged him to resign.