C. Allen Parker was interrupted more than a dozen times during Wells Fargo & Co.’s annual meeting by activists who called executives “frauds” and “criminals” and demanded the interim chief executive turn the scandal-plagued bank around.
“Frauds, all of you!” one heckler shouted as Parker tried to deliver his opening remarks in Dallas on Tuesday. “Wells Fargo, you cannot be trusted!” yelled another.
“One of the wonderful things about shareholder democracy in this country is that we have meetings like this,” Parker said, imploring the activists to hold their remarks until the time set for investor comments later in the meeting.
Wells Fargo’s string of scandals began with the revelation that to meet sales goals, employees opened perhaps millions of accounts in customers’ names without those customers’ authorization. Tim Sloan stepped down as CEO in March under mounting pressure from regulators, politicians and investors. Parker is leading the company while it searches for a new top executive.
Wells Fargo’s shareholders have grappled with a change at the top twice since the fake-accounts scandal erupted in late 2016 and led to the exit of CEO John Stumpf.
After Sloan, a three-decade insider, rose to the top job, issues continued to emerge across business lines. Regulators indicated repeatedly that the San Francisco bank hasn’t done enough to clean things up. Sloan’s successor may still inherit 14 outstanding consent orders and more than a dozen ongoing investigations.
Board Chairwoman Betsy Duke said at Tuesday’s meeting that the search for a new CEO is well underway, and that the bank won’t give any more updates on its progress until a decision is made.
Investors retained Duke and the rest of Wells Fargo’s board. All directors were approved with at least 95% support, according to preliminary results announced at the meeting.
More than half of the board has joined since the bank’s scandals first came to light. John Baker II and James Quigley, who were among eight directors receiving less than 70% of votes two years ago, are still on the board.
Shareholders and their representatives, during both their interruptions of Parker’s remarks and the portion of the meeting reserved for investor comments, criticized Wells Fargo over the bank’s sales practice scandals and pressed executives and directors on issues including supporting low- and moderate-income consumers and financing oil and gas companies. Some attendees thanked company leaders for the bank’s philanthropic work.
One speaker said she’s a former employee who left Wells Fargo over corruption at the bank. Parker responded that changes have been made since her departure “to make sure inappropriate things do not occur” at Wells Fargo.
Among the speakers was activist Bruce Marks, who, during the annual meeting two years ago, was escorted out by security after shouting without a microphone, demanding directors explain what they knew about abuses at the bank. On Tuesday, he asked for Wells Fargo’s commitment to discuss a program to support auto consumers.
Parker said he’d be happy to talk about the issue with him. And in a rare moment of levity, another activist yelled that Marks should become the next Wells Fargo CEO, eliciting laughs from attendees.