After almost three weeks of unremitting kicks to its groin, Wells Fargo has likely coped with the pain and torture by entering the numb acceptance phase of its life as a disgraced mega-bank.
But today, the bank-friendly front-runner in this year's presidential election is about to slap Wells Fargo out of its anguished stupor by officially christening the bank as a bona fide political football!
At a campaign stop in Toledo, Ohio, the Democratic presidential nominee will unveil a measure aimed at curbing the prevalence of "forced arbitration" clauses in contracts that make it difficult for workers and consumers to bring legal action against companies and have been invoked by Wells Fargo when customers have tried to sue for damages related to the creation of 2 million fake accounts.
Clinton will also offer a new proposal to promote competition, address excessive market concentration and "reinvigorate" antitrust laws. The campaign did not offer further details on either proposal ahead of the candidate's speech.
By attacking the one major bank not immediately associated with her time as U.S. Senator from New York, and doing it in a working-class swing state like Ohio, Hillary is making the best of a mediocre situation. Wall Street misbehavior is not politically great for team Hillary - given her links to the financial sector and that one time her husband blew up Glass-Steagall -but the sheer madness of what Wells Fargo did allows almost anyone, even Hillary, to grab the moral high ground and start throwing stones. Of course, this being Hillary, the attack is not a partisan clarion call of "Send John Stumpf to prison!" but an agonizingly incremental and wonky proposal to unravel a convoluted gnarl of legalese.
The trip to Toledo will also give Clinton a chance to weigh in on what her campaign describes as Wells Fargo's "unfair and abusive scheme," to which she has only responded in written statements and a letter to the bank's customers in which she said she was "deeply disturbed" by its practices and pledged to take action.
Judges have rejected lawsuits filed by Wells Fargo customers affected by bank workers' creation of false accounts because those customers agreed to submit any disputes to an arbitrator when they signed contracts for legitimate accounts with the bank. Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee last month, Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf would not agree to stop enforcing the clause.
But within that last clause lies the rub; Hillary's attempt at anti-Wall Street populism always seem to end in the kind of policy-heavy obtuse double speak that makes Hillary look like the problem she's trying to solve. In the case of 2016 Wells Fargo however, she has been gifted with the Phil Dunphy of bank CEOs in John Stumpf and a human self-inflicted political wound in her opponent Donald Trump.
Stumpf is incapable of putting the right foot forward and pushing WFC's Q-rating lower with each breath that passes through his ever-tightening mouth. And then there's Trump, who is edging ever closer to just yelling into a microphone that he hasn't paid taxes since "Cheers" was the number one show on television, and that he's PROUD of himself for it.
In fact, the Trump campaign has apparently reasoned out that its candidate exploited the tax code to get out of paying personal income tax because he had a "fiduciary duty" to do so. The logic there seems to be that Trump is his own fiduciary and has an obligation to enrich...himself?
Staggeringly, the only other contemporary argument for fiduciary duty outstripping seemingly moral decision-making is coming from - you guessed it - John Stumpf. In appearances before the House and Senate, Stumpf has made a point of defending the practice of cross-selling because it is just so damn good for business. Whether or not one agrees that cross-selling is at the root cause of what ails Wells Fargo, it is hard to argue that Stumpf looks nuts going out of his way to bring up and defend a controversial practice before a bloodthirsty Congress. Saying that it's good for Wells Fargo shareholders is not something people want to hear right now, including Wells Fargo shareholders.
But Stumpf looks semi-cogent in comparison to Trump if for no other reason than that he has actual f@cking fiduciaries.
So, will Hillary perhaps make this point to Ohio voters, conflating these two arguments to draw wonky parallels between two political targets in the final weeks of a unprecedentedly bitter campaign?
Clinton will also make a stop Monday in Akron, the hometown of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, who endorsed her on Sunday.
Oooh. She's learning.