Wells Fargo’s Testimony Left Some Feeling Shortchanged – The New York Times

VEA Vice Chair Nell Minow is quoted in the Gretchen Morgenson New York Times story about the latest revelations of 1.4 million fraudulent accounts at Wells Fargo and the very unusual decision to pay separate lobbyists to represent the outside directors.

“What exactly are the shareholders getting out of this arrangement?” asked Nell Minow, a governance expert and vice chairwoman at ValueEdge Advisors, a firm that guides institutional shareholders on how to reduce risk in their portfolios. “And what disclosures about this are being made to shareholders?”I asked Wells Fargo those questions and whether the lobbying expenditures were covered by directors’ and officers’ insurance or by shareholders. Ms. Dunn, the spokeswoman, declined to comment.Ms. Minow said the practices were particularly notable because of Wells Fargo’s record.“It might be different if this was a different company,” she said. “But this board, even somewhat reconstituted, has lost so much credibility with investors that this expenditure for lobbyists looks like another in a series of very bad decisions.”

Wells Fargo Accounts Probe Lets Board Off Easily But Proxy Advisory Firms Disagree – TheStreet

Ron Orol writes in The Street:

A report on Wells Fargo’s (WFC) fake-accounts scandal commissioned by the bank’s independent directors is far less critical of the company’s board than two studies issued last week by influential shareholder advisory firms. Instead, the 113-page analysis released Monday of how employees working to meet the San Francisco-based bank’s ambitious sales targets created more than 2 million unauthorized credit card and savings accounts over a five-year period lays much of the blame with former CEO John Stumpf and former community banking chief Carrie Tolstedt.

According to the report board “members believe they were misinformed” (note use of the passive voice, a telling indicator of a failure to accept responsibility). ISS sees it differently:

A report days earlier from Institutional Shareholder Services, the most influential shareholder advisory firm in the U.S., was less forgiving of the board. The firm recommended that investors vote against 12 of Wells Fargo’s 15 directors, including the four members who oversaw the investigation.

Members of two board subcommittees “failed over a number of years” to provide sufficient risk oversight at the scandal-plagued lender, the ISS report said, and the board overall failed to implement an “effective risk management oversight process in a timely way” that could have spared the bank’s reputation.

In our view, the compensation plan alone, rewarding the number of transactions instead of the quality of transactions, is sufficient reason to replace the entire board.

Source: Wells Fargo Accounts Probe Lets Board Off Much Easier Than Proxy Firms – TheStreet

Deutsche Bank Fined in Plan to Help Russians Launder $10 Billion – The New York Times

Deutsche Bank agreed on Monday to pay a $425 million fine to New York State’s main financial regulator to settle charges that it helped Russian investors launder as much as $10 billion through its branches in Moscow, London and New York.The punishment represents the latest regulatory black eye for Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest. In the last decade, it has been implicated in several financial scandals, including pushing toxic mortgages on investors and manipulating London’s main lending rate for its own financial gain.

Deutsche Bank also agreed to pay 163 million pounds, or about $204 million, in civil penalties in a separate settlement with the Financial Conduct Authority of Britain in the matter, the bank and the regulator said on Tuesday.

In its investigation, the New York State Department of Financial Services found that between 2011 and 2015, a group of Deutsche Bank executives based mainly in Moscow and London helped wealthy Russians send money overseas by arranging stock trades that had no economic purpose other than disguising what the client was doing.

Citigroup to Pay $18 Million to Settle Charges It Overbilled Clients – WSJ

Citigroup Inc. will pay $18 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission allegations that it overbilled investment advisory clients and lost client contracts…The SEC alleges that at least 60,000 clients were overcharged about $18 million in fees because Citigroup charged clients higher rates than the ones that were negotiated. The bank allegedly didn’t confirm that proper billing rates were entered into its computer systems over a 15-year period from 2000 to 2015.The regulator also says that Citigroup allegedly lost contracts for 83,000 advisory accounts opened between 1990 and 2012, and therefore couldn’t check whether clients were being billed at the negotiated rates.

Source: Citigroup to Pay $18 Million to Settle Charges It Overbilled Clients – WSJ

JPMorgan Chase to Pay $264 Million to Settle Foreign Bribery Case – The New York Times

Vying for lucrative deals in China, JPMorgan Chase deployed all the usual wining-and-dining tactics that big banks use to woo clients. JPMorgan, federal authorities now say, also had ways of sweetening the deal that crossed a legal line.

Federal prosecutors and regulators announced on Thursday a settlement of roughly $264 million with the bank and its Hong Kong subsidiary, accusing them of a vast foreign bribery scheme that may have spread to a number of Wall Street banks.

The case centered on JPMorgan’s hiring practices in China, where it hired the children of Chinese leaders to win business in the fast-growing nation. Some of the well-connected candidates were unqualified, the authorities said, and often “performed ancillary work” — telltale signs of hidden bribery.The case could lay the groundwork for the authorities to pursue penalties against other big banks as well. Banks including HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank have hinted that they face investigations into their hiring practices in China as part of a larger sweep by the agency that began in 2013.

Source: JPMorgan Chase to Pay $264 Million to Settle Foreign Bribery Case – The New York Times

Five Steps for Wells Fargo to Rebound from Scandal | Bank Think

Jon Lukomnik has some good advice for Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo has been knocked off its pedestal, but it is imperative that the company move forward and put this episode behind it.

His recommendations include replacing the CEO and CFO (we would add the head of HR who designed or approved the compensation that incentivized the creation of the fraudulent accounts) and installing a board-level independent monitor.

Source: Five Steps for Wells Fargo to Rebound from Scandal | Bank Think

To Disclose or Not to Disclose? Wells Fargo Woes Shine Light on a Knotty Problem – WSJ

Wells Fargo didn’t disclose anything publicly about its “cross-selling” abuses or looming settlement with regulators before the pact was announced Sept. 8—including in its second-quarter Securities and Exchange Commission filing weeks earlier, on Aug. 3. Three Democratic senators who grilled the bank’s chief executive last week now have asked the SEC to investigate whether Wells Fargo misled investors by failing to disclose the issue sooner.

While the bank’s management had known since 2013 that some employees had created deposit and credit-card accounts for customers without their knowledge, the accounts were a tiny portion of Wells Fargo’s business. The settlement, which included a $185 million fine, was less than 1% of last year’s earnings. The matter was “not a material event,” Chief Executive John Stumpf told a Senate panel last week.

That is true in terms of the bank’s income statement. Not so its reputation or share price. The bank and Mr. Stumpf have faced a political and public furor and the stock has lost nearly 10% since the settlement, or about $23 billion.

Source: To Disclose or Not to Disclose? Wells Fargo Woes Shine Light on a Knotty Problem – WSJ

California Suspends Ties With Wells Fargo – The New York Times

Citing Wells Fargo’s “venal abuse of its customers,” the California treasurer took the unusual step on Wednesday of suspending many of its ties with the San Francisco bank as it continues to reel from the scandal over the creation of as many as two million unauthorized bank and credit card accounts.The state treasurer, John Chiang, said he was suspending Wells Fargo’s “most highly profitable business relationships” with the state for at least a year, including the lucrative business of underwriting certain California municipal bonds.

On Tuesday alone, he said, he had pulled Wells Fargo off two large municipal bond deals.

“How can I continue to entrust the public’s money to an organization which has shown such little regard for the legions of Californians who placed their financial well-being in its care?” Mr. Chiang wrote in a letter on Wednesday to the bank’s chairman and chief executive, John G. Stumpf, and the bank’s board members.

Source: California Suspends Ties With Wells Fargo – The New York Times