Rep. Maxine Waters blasts Wells Fargo for meeting with Republicans but stonewalling Democrats

Rep. Maxine Waters on Friday chided Wells Fargo Chief Executive Timothy Sloan, saying he and others at the bank met months ago with Republican staff of the House Financial Services Committee but have given Democratic staff the runaround.

In a letter sent to Sloan and to one of the bank’s attorneys, the Los Angeles Democrat and ranking member of the committee said her staff has repeatedly tried to schedule meetings with the bank’s top executives, but to no avail.

She said the bank’s failure to meet with the committee’s Democratic staff is one of several factors that could prolong her interest in investigating the bank’s practices.

“The countless revelations in the press of Wells Fargo’s egregious behavior and your failure to participate in interviews with Democratic staff tell me that this committee’s investigation is far from over,” Waters wrote.

In an emailed statement, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Jennifer Dunn said the bank is “responding appropriately to committee requests.”

“We have fully cooperated with the House Financial Services Committee’s investigation, including by voluntarily participating in the September 2016 hearing, producing over 140,000 pages of documents, answering more than 50 written and numerous oral questions, and making our most senior leadership available for interviews,” Dunn said.

The House Financial Services Committee was one of the congressional panels — along with the Senate Banking Committee — that last year grilled Wells Fargo’s then-CEO John Stumpf after the bank reached a $185-million settlement with regulators and acknowledged that it opened as many as 2 million accounts without customers’ authorization.

At that hearing, Waters called Wells Fargo’s behavior “egregious” and said she believed the bank should be broken up.

Republican members of the committee, including Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, were rough on the bank too, though in the months since then, have been quiet.

In her letter, Waters said Sloan and three other Wells Fargo executives — Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry, General Counsel James Strother and Chief Risk Officer Michael Loughlin — met with Republican committee staff on Dec. 5, 6 and 7.

Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for the committee’s Republican members, confirmed Wells Fargo executives met with Republican staff in December. He said Republican staff members briefed their Democratic counterparts on the interviews.

Waters said her staff started trying to schedule similar meetings shortly thereafter but have been put off repeatedly. She said she raised the issue to Sloan himself during a recent phone call.

“You personally assured me that you would look into the matter,” Waters wrote, referring to Sloan. “My staff again followed up with your attorneys after our call and was again told that they ‘did not have an answer.’ If this is indicative of how Wells Fargo responds to its customers, I can understand why so many of them are upset with their treatment.”

A spokeswoman for Waters said the congresswoman remains interested in the bank’s sales-practices scandal, and in particular about revelations and allegations that have come to light in the months since last year’s congressional hearings.

Waters mentioned two such issues in her letter: allegations by former Prudential insurance employees that Wells Fargo workers sold life insurance policies to bank customers that didn’t want or authorize them; and reports that Wells Fargo used to give its branches 24 hours to prepare for inspections, potentially allowing them to hide evidence of misconduct.

james.koren@latimes.com

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