When we all learned last week that Wells Fargo had seemingly stripped naked in the firelight and given in to the darker angels of its own nature (i.e. somehow allowing its employees to open more than 2 million fake accounts in the names of actual clients and then firing 5,300 of those employees) it occurred to many of us to ask, "Who the f@ck was in charge over there?"
Well, good news/bad news, you guys.
Good news: We know who was in charge!
Carrie Tolstedt has been a major force at Wells Fargo for almost two decades and has risen to the role of senior executive vice-president of community banking. Just last year she ranked #27 on Fortune's "Most Powerful Women" list. In fact, Fortune described her role at the time thusly:
The woman behind every interaction that Wells Fargo’s 22 million retail households have with the bank. She leads 102,000 team members and oversees about 6,200 retail locations.
Isn't it amazing how quickly praise can turn into an indictment?
Tolstedt was not just a senior exec at Wells Fargo, she was a paradigm of the virtues that make the wagon go, at least until July when she announced that she was retiring at the age of 55. An official statement on her decision released by Wells Fargo contained this:
A trusted colleague and dear friend, Carrie Tolstedt has been one of our most valuable Wells Fargo leaders, a standard-bearer of our culture, a champion for our customers, and a role model for responsible, principled and inclusive leadership,” said John Stumpf, Wells Fargo’s chairman and chief executive officer. “Because of her passion for serving our customers, wherever and however they chose to receive their banking services – online, in branches, or via mobile phones – Carrie leaves Wells Fargo uniquely positioned to continue to be a leader in retail banking, no matter how the future of banking evolves. We share in the pride that she has for the legacy, accomplishments and talent that she will leave behind.
Oh, but that's not all she left behind was it, Stumpfy?
It appears almost certain that Wells Fargo has known about the fraudulent accounts for some time now, perhaps even years, meaning that Tolstedt's "retirement" might be more part and parcel with the 5,300 departures announced Thursday than a young-ish senior executives sudden urge to start drinking at four pm.
So what, you might be asking, is the bad news?
Wells Fargo & Co’s “sandbagger”-in-chief is leaving the giant bank with an enormous pay day—$124.6 million.
That's a report from Fortune, the same guys who - up until last year - used to refer to the “sandbagger”-in-chief as the 27th most powerful woman in America. And powerful people get powerful payouts when they retire... unless of course they oversaw an unprecedented management meltdown and work somewhere that has agreed to institute clawback provisions.
In fact, despite beefed-up “clawback” provisions instituted by the bank shortly after the financial crisis, and the recent revelations of massive misconduct, it does not appear that Wells Fargo is requiring Carrie Tolstedt, the Wells Fargo executive who was in charge of the unit where employees opened more than 2 million largely unauthorized customer accounts—a seemingly routine practice that employees internally referred to as “sandbagging”—to give back any of her nine-figure pay.
Game. Set. Carrie.
So, let's recap. Wells Fargo has now been caught engaging in the kind of behavior only dreamed of by Occupy radicalized millennials high on 'shrooms at a drum circle. The scale of Wells' bad behavior has drawn the ire of uniformly every sector of American society and given the community bankers of America a chance to yell "WE TOLD YOU SO!" as they work their margins even tighter to pay for all that Dodd-Frank compliance. And now, Wells Fargo is unfurling a golden parachute for a departing executive who was already paid in the high nine-figures for overseeing all of it.
This, as they say, isn't good for anybody.
Well, anybody who isn't Elizabeth Warren.