Is Wells Fargo looking for Tim Sloan’s replacement?
As Wells Fargo battles scandal after scandal after scandal, speculation has been building about CEO Tim Sloan’s job security.
The most concrete indication that the embattled bank’s board has considered making a change came Wednesday.
The New York Post reported that Wells board members approached Gary Cohn, formerly of Goldman Sachs and the Trump White House, about the CEO job earlier this year. Cohn rebuffed them, according to the Post.
Wells Fargo quickly pushed back against the article, which relied on anonymous sources. (See update here.)
“The assertions in this story are inaccurate; Tim Sloan has the full support of the Wells Fargo board of directors,” bank spokeswoman Arati Randolph said in an email.
She declined to elaborate on what specific claims the Post got wrong.
Cohn denied to the Post that he is currently in talks with Wells Fargo, but the article did not include any comment from the veteran banker about whether he was previously approached about becoming the company’s next CEO.
If the Post is to be believed, Cohn met with Wells board members at least once, and that meeting took place around March or April of this year. The timing suggests that board members may have been eyeing a potential for Sloan even before many of the bank's most recent regulatory troubles emerged into public view.
April 20 was when Wells agreed to pay a $1 billion fine to settle investigations related to its mortgage and auto-lending businesses.
Also in late April, the San Francisco bank reportedly owned up to keeping fee rebates that it should have passed along to a public pension fund in Chattanooga, Tenn.
On May 10, Wells Fargo announced that it was preparing to operate under a regulatory cap on asset growth until early 2019, rather than the fall of this year, as was previously projected.
One week later came a report that Wells Fargo bankers fudged information such as birthdays and Social Security numbers on documents for commercial customers in order to meet a regulatory deadline. That matter is now reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department.
And the list goes on.
On July 19, Wells disclosed that it was working with its regulators on a review of add-on products, such as identity theft protection, that it sold to customers. The bank said that it would provide refunds if the review uncovered issues.
Eight days later came allegations from whistleblowers about improprieties in the bank’s wealth-management business.
Last month, the bank acknowledged that it mistakenly foreclosed on hundreds of homeowners over a five-year period. Wells also disclosed a Justice Department probe of its handling of tax credits for low-income housing projects.
If Sloan was already on thin ice in the spring, his position could be even more precarious today.
Still, any decision to fire a CEO has to be considered in the context of who the successor will be. Wells has long been apt to promote from within, so it is notable that Cohn, who has never worked for the beleaguered company, was reportedly approached about the job.
In public remarks, Wells board chair Elizabeth “Betsy” Duke has offered strong support for Sloan, who joined the bank in 1987, and took over as CEO shortly after the bank plunged into scandal in 2016.
“I think Tim’s time with the company is an advantage, and his commitment to change is unwavering,” Duke said at Wells Fargo’s annual meeting on April 24. “And I think he’s the right CEO for Wells Fargo.”
What’s being said behind closed doors may be different.