The entire board of Wells Fargo, not just the CEO, needs to be replaced.
In 1992, shareholder activist Bob Monks purchased a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal to illustrate that the real non-performing asset of Sears was its Board of Directors. This seems to be the case at Wells Fargo today. Its problems are not limited to the former CEO John Stumpf, who resigned: they are the result of a corporate policy coming from the very top, which left many clues along the way that the Board should have caught.
Since the beginning of his tenure, Stumpf had made no secret of his strategy of “going for gr-eight,” meaning selling eight products to each customer and having each employee open eight new accounts every day. For years, employees had been calling the ethics hotline, reporting how the pressure to keep up with the quota of new accounts or be fired was forcing many employees to engage in illegal and abusive practices. And at least since 2013 this problem had been reported in the press.
Yet, a year after that revelation, the culture at Wells Fargo had not changed at all, at least according to an employee’s report on the website Glassdoor.com: “Cross Selling is the only focus now, firing employees who are great at their job in every area that should matter but if the cross selling results are not meeting the ever ridiculous quota (which continues to rise) than you may not have a job next month.” How could the board have ignored all of this? The entire board, not just the CEO, needs to be replaced.
To find out more about what institutional investors can do can to avoid this problem in the future, read my Bloomberg op-ed.