Last year was one to forget for Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC). It was revealed in September that the nation's third-biggest bank by assets had pressured employees through its incentive system to open up millions of fraudulent accounts for customers in order to boost the bank's cross-sell ratio. The further pile-on by regulators helps explain why Wells Fargo's fourth-quarter results left so much to be desired.
To learn more about why it was such a challenging three-month stretch for Wells Fargo, listen in to the segment below of this week's episode of Industry Focus: Financials, in which The Motley Fool's Michael Douglass and contributor John Maxfield discuss the bank's recent woes.
A full transcript follows the video.
This podcast was recorded on Jan. 23, 2017.
Michael Douglass: Let's talk about Wells Fargo, the fallen angel of the big bank stocks. What happened with these guys?
John Maxfield: Wells Fargo had a really tough quarter. Like I was telling you, it kind of reminded me of my first semester in college. I still had a pretty good semester, but it was pretty messy when you looked at all the details. In fact, my parents probably didn't know too much about that. [laughs] But, anyway, Wells Fargo has struggled in the quarter. We saw that scandal come out. And that really impacted its top and bottom lines.
Douglass: Yeah. Let's face it, reduced credit card and checking account deposits, that's going to be a problem long-term. And all of that work that they're having to do, trying to respond to everything that happened. Let's go ahead and take a step back for those of our listeners who might not be familiar with what's going on with Wells Fargo over the last six months.
Maxfield: In September, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau came out and revealed that Wells Fargo, employees in its branches, had been opening fake accounts for customers in order to boost Wells Fargo's cross-sell ratio, and on the individual basis, when you look at the bankers who were doing it, it was in order to meet their sales quotas, these really high sales quotas that they were obligated to meet in order to win bonuses and also to keep their jobs. So, that came out. And then, later in the month, the Office of the Comptroller Currency, which is the primary regulator for national banks, because of the scandal, it is now requiring Wells Fargo to seek regulatory approval for any changes in officers and directors. When you think about it, the company can't even hire or fire the main people anymore without the regulators weighing in on it. That's a pretty stiff penalty. Then, later in the quarter, in December, the Federal Reserve came in and said that Wells Fargo had messed up on this really important financial submission that all the big banks have to submit each year, and as a result of it being the only large bank in the United States to mess up on that, it can't expand internationally without regulatory approval, and also can't make acquisitions without regulatory approval. And then, the icing on the cake -- what a horrible cake it would be to eat -- is there are all these ongoing investigations into Wells Fargo. The one that we know for sure is going on is being run by the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, that is looking into whether Wells Fargo retaliated against employees who tried to bring that sales scandal to light over the past few years as it was happening, and then when they did bring it to the attention of their supervisors, it is alleged by many, many employees and the media over the last few months that they were either fired, or faced some sort of adverse employment action as a result of bringing it to light.