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Wells Fargo Execs Belong in Jail; Institutional Financial Penalties Not Enough

Statement of Bartlett Naylor, Financial Policy Advocate, Public Citizen

Note: Wells Fargo reportedly is nearing settlements with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and U.S.  Securities and Exchange Commission over the bank’s fake accounts scandal.

Any resolution for Wells Fargo’s massive, management-directed misconduct must hold individuals to account. We know many of the crimes, and we know that real executives, not some ghost in a machine, committed them.

Wall Street bankers brought the American economy to the brink of total collapse in 2008, yet not one manager among the hundreds responsible for the trillion-dollar frauds spent even a single day in prison. And while those frauds may have been shrouded in complex, mystifying language, Wells Fargo’s fake account scandal is as clear and understandable as pickpocketing.

Criminal violations should be deterred through criminal enforcement actions, not deferred prosecution agreements where managers agree to institutional financial penalties and hollow promises.

Protecting Wells Fargo from the consequences of its wrongdoing is not the DOJ’s job.