Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released an open letter to Wells Fargo customers Tuesday in which she called the phony account openings "deeply disturbing," defended the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and demanded that individual executives be held accountable.
"There is simply no place for this kind of outrageous behavior in America," Clinton said. "Executives should be held individually accountable when rampant illegal activity happens on their watch."
The former secretary of state said she would put forward an agenda to hold Wall Street firms accountable, including making sure that no financial institution is too big to manage.
"I'll put additional safeguards in place to address the risks that the big banks continue to pose to our system," Clinton said. "And if any bank can't be managed effectively, it should be broken up."
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf is testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday.
Though Clinton did not name Stumpf, she called for "real consequences" for Wells Fargo executives. She also criticized the reported $125 million payout given to Carrie Tolstedt, the head of Wells' community banking unit, who retired in July.
Clinton called for Tolstedt's compensation to be clawed back. She also questioned how rampant illegal activity could happen without top executives knowing about it.
"It's frustrating that a bank can simply pay a fine and keep doing business as usual — with massive compensation for the executives responsible," she said.
"It's hard to imagine that top executives were unaware of a problem that involved thousands of the firm's employees," Clinton said. "After all, they imposed sales targets and compensation incentives in ways that led to this behavior."
Wells agreed to pay $190 million in fines and restitution to settle charges that roughly 2 million accounts were opened without proper authorization.
Clinton used the Wells enforcement action to slam her rival Donald Trump, noting that the Republican presidential candidate has called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"The unfair and abusive practices at Wells Fargo remind us that we need tough watchdogs looking out for customers," Clinton said. "Donald Trump, the Republican Party and Wall Street lobbyists are desperate to dismantle this effective agency, which is dedicated solely to protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive practices. I won't let them put the CFPB under their thumb. I'll protect the CFPB and make sure it can continue its essential work on behalf of the American people."