Wells Fargo & Co.’s critics stormed its annual meeting in Dallas, vowing to keep pressure on the bank even after the resignation of its chief executive officer. Investors, however, showed they’re ready to move on.
Interim Chief Executive Officer C. Allen Parker was interrupted more than a dozen times as he tried to deliver opening remarks at the gathering, with hecklers shouting “frauds” and “criminals” at the bank’s leaders. “Wells Fargo, you cannot be trusted,” one activist yelled.
The turmoil wound down as security officers escorted protesters from the room, and shareholders voted to support Chair Betsy Duke and the rest of Wells Fargo’s board. All directors were approved with at least 95 percent support, according to preliminary results announced at the meeting. That’s the highest rate since before Wells Fargo’s scandals erupted in 2016.
“One of the wonderful things about shareholder democracy in this country is that we have meetings like this,” Parker said as he asked attendees to wait until the designated time to discuss their concerns.
The meeting showed big investors are willing to give the bank more time to resolve years of scandals that last month claimed a second CEO, Tim Sloan, who had become a target for critics. Days after lawmakers held a hearing in Washington to examine his progress in cleaning up the company, Sloan stepped down, saying he didn’t want his leadership to be a distraction.
Wells Fargo’s string of scandals began with the revelation that employees ope-ned millions of potentially fake accounts to meet sales goals. Parker is now leading the San Francisco-based company temporarily while it searches for a new CEO.
Wells Fargo’s shareholders have grappled with a change at the top twice since the fake-account scandal erupted and led to the exit of CEO John Stumpf. After Sloan, a three-decade insider, rose to the top job, issues continued to emerge across business lines.
Regulators indicated repeatedly that the bank hasn’t done enough to resolve its issues.