WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are keeping up the pressure on Wells Fargo's board to answer questions about the phony-accounts scandal.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and other Democrats sent a letter to the bank on Thursday accusing the institution of dodging questions about the timeline of actions taken after it was discovered that employees were creating fake accounts for customers. The letter also asks the board to provide more information about the internal investigation that is taking place.
Former CEO John Stumpf "and Wells Fargo management have avoided answering central questions relating to the fraud in the three months since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Los Angeles City Attorney announced their settlement with Wells Fargo on September 8, 2016," the letter said.
Stumpf has since been succeeded by Tim Sloan, previously Wells' chief operating officer.
The lawmakers listed 10 questions that they want Wells' board to respond to, including who specifically is leading the internal investigation and if the bank is looking into potential fraud in other business lines. The September hearing focused on fraud that took place in the community banking division, but a recent New York Times report revealed that fraudulent account openings and fraud also extended to insurance policies that were sold to customers without their knowledge.
Wells has previously told Senate Democrats that the unauthorized account openings were an isolated problem, but the lawmakers' letter said they do not believe that.
"We now know that is not accurate, and that fraudulent insurance policies were written for Wells Fargo customers," the letter says. " When did you become aware that these activities were not limited to deposit and credit card accounts, and is the independent investigation looking into this issue across products and business lines at Wells Fargo?"
The Wells board also said they were limited in what they could answer in response to lawmaker questions because the investigation was ongoing and would likely take until spring to complete.
But the lawmakers said "waiting until spring 2017 to provide more documents and information to our questions is not diligence" and asked that Wells respond to the letter with answers by Jan. 6, 2017.
The letter was signed by all the Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee with the exception of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is stepping off the panel to assume the leadership of Senate Democrats next year.
A spokesperson for the board said that "it is conducting a thorough independent investigation assisted by outside counsel that will follow the facts wherever they lead."
"The findings of the investigation will be made public at the conclusion of the process," the spokesperson said.