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Wells Fargo Wealth Management Unit Follows the Rules, CEO Tells House Committee

March 14, 2019

A four-hour discussion by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Financial Services about Wells Fargo’s bank scandals included little about the firm’s wealth management unit, but the firm’s CEO assured lawmakers the unit abides by regulations, according to news reports.

“I can assure you that our team that works with our clients in Wells Fargo Advisors and any of our wealth management or retail banking businesses that provides investment products works very hard to follow the rules and regulations that they’re supposed to follow,” Tim Sloan said at the hearing Tuesday, according to WealthManagement.com

The memorandum for the hearing outlined infractions in Wells Fargo’s wealth management business, including faulty fee calculations and a June settlement with the SEC over alleged fraud charges, the web publication writes.

In addition, some members of the committee brought up the $125 million settlement Wells Fargo and 78 other firms recently reached with the SEC over alleged sales of higher-priced mutual funds share classes than what was available to their clients, according to WealthManagement.com writes.

But the hearing focused primarily on the consumer scandals, the web publication writes.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., did ask Sloan about a recent New York Times story and the Wells Fargo advisor source, Melissa Kinnard, who said she’d left the firm because of alleged pressure to push clients into recurring-fee products. Zeldin asked if the story was true (as outlined in the Times story) that the firm then sent a letter to her clients claiming she joined forces with another employee whom she endorsed, and then failed to retract the letter despite her numerous requests, the web publication writes.

Sloan replied that he wasn’t familiar with the situation and didn’t know Kinnard, but said the firm may have sent out similar letters, although he didn’t know of any, according to WealthManagement.com.

In addition, Rep. Scott Randall Tipton, R-Colo., asked whether Sloan thought of himself as a fiduciary to the firm’s clients, the web publication writes.

“I have a responsibility to serve our customers according to the rules and regulations of this country and to provide them with the best service and advice that we can,” Sloan replied, according to WealthManagement.com. “I take responsibility for that as CEO.”

Zeldin asked the same question later, the web publication writes.

“Fiduciary is a legal term,” Sloan replied, according to WealthManagement.com. “In certain businesses there is a fiduciary requirement: for example, in some of our wealth businesses and Wells Fargo financial advisors’ business. In other businesses, there’s not a fiduciary standard, and in those businesses, we use a standard of doing the right thing for our customers in making sure we’re providing them with the right services and products.”

By Alex Padalka
  • To read the Welath Management article cited in this story, click here.