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Jim Cramer Is Wrong About Wells Fargo: It's Not Like Chipotle

By John Maxfield – May 12, 2017 at 8:20PM

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It's a mistake to compare Wells Fargo’s fake-account scandal to Chipotle’s foodborne-illness outbreaks.

A lot of people don't take Jim Cramer seriously, which probably has something to do with the theatrics of his show on CNBC. But I tend to agree with the substance of what he says.

Yet, I think he's wrong to compare Wells Fargo's (WFC 1.26%) recovery from its fake-account scandal to Chipotle Mexican Grill's (CMG 1.65%) recovery from a handful of foodborne-illness outbreaks that struck in 2015.

The Wells Fargo logo.

Image source: The Motley Fool.

Cramer's main point, which he made earlier this week, is that it takes 18 months for scandals like these to wash over, regardless of whether it's a restaurant chain or the nation's third biggest bank by assets:

Wells Fargo is just like Chipotle. When you have this kind of disaster, it takes 18 months.

Wells Fargo shot itself in the foot. In nine months, you will start thinking: "What did Wells Fargo do?" That's the way the American mind works.

I agree with him on Chipotle and have said as much in the past. More importantly, the facts bear his position out: Chipotle's stock is in the midst of a meaningful rally that began, you guessed it, roughly a year and a half after its initial E. coli outbreak.

CMG Chart

CMG data by YCharts.

But investors need to be careful about taking this analogy too far, because these are actually very different scenarios. Chipotle's stock fell more than 50% in the wake of its food-safety issues, while Wells Fargo's dropped a maximum of 13%.

Wells Fargo's stock has since rallied alongside other banks, as rising interest rates and expectations of regulatory relief emanating from Washington, D.C. have convinced investors that banks will soon make a lot more money. Today, in fact, Wells Fargo's stock is 6% above where it was right before its fake-account scandal came to light last September.

WFC Chart

WFC data by YCharts.

Wells Fargo's stock price has thus already recovered. It's not a turnaround situation. And quite frankly, it never was. Wells Fargo is instead a long-term play on interest rates and on the California-based bank's deeply entrenched position in the financial services industry.

The story in Chipotle's case is different. Its stock is still off by 35%. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a turnaround story, as its stock may have been egregiously overvalued before the food-safety scare, but it does put the burrito chain into a different investment category.

This is why I think Cramer is wrong to analogize Wells Fargo to Chipotle. There are similarities between the two, but the differences are much more meaningful.

John Maxfield owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Wells Fargo Stock Quote
Wells Fargo
$47.57 (1.26%) $0.59
Chipotle Mexican Grill Stock Quote
Chipotle Mexican Grill
$1,552.72 (1.65%) $25.16

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