Wells Fargo scandal should be major campaign issue
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The headlines made it sound that the CEO of Wells Fargo, John Stumpf, really went through a rough time before the Senate Banking Committee. He was "savaged," "assailed" and "attacked."

Yes, he had to endure tough questioning, but does anybody really believe anything bad will happen to him? Last year, he made over $19 million. The people who were fired (over 5,000) for setting up bogus accounts without customers' knowledge or consent made about $12 per hour.

ADVERTISEMENT

Stumpf said he was "sorry." Oh, I forgot to use the exact words: "very sorry." And if that was not enough, he added, "That is not what we wanted to have happen." Are there any consequences for him? Well, he innocently replied, "That's up to the board."

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAre Democrats turning Trump-like? Manufacturing shrinks, raising questions for Trump Volatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties MORE (D-Mass.) wouldn't let him get away with that pathetic, lame dodge. She promptly and perfectly said, "You keep saying 'the board, the board. You describe them like they are strangers you met in a dark alley."

And then she dropped the nuclear bomb: "You are the chairman of the board." Warren told him that not only should he resign, but better yet, he should be "criminally investigated."

That's why a great many Americans absolutely love Warren. She doesn't fool around; she speaks the truth. Nobody is exempt from her scrutiny or criticism. Her exact words are worth repeating. Her summary of Stumpf's actions is so accurate: "[Y]our definition of 'accountable' is to push the blame to your low-level employees." And she went on, "It's gutless leadership." But the very best was the following:

"The only way that Wall Street will change is if executives face jail time when they preside over massive frauds."

Carrie Tolstedt, the person who was in charge of the division that created the fraud, will be allowed to retire at 56 years old and receive tens of millions of dollars for her good work.

Will there be any punishment for her? No answer from Stumpf.

Even Republican Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), chair of the committee, remarked, "What does accountability look like when an executive departs with millions of dollars?"

The entire matter just stinks.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersVolatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties GOP memo deflects some gun questions to 'violence from the left' British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite MORE (I-Vt.), during his campaign for the Democratic nomination, valiantly sought to make the "billionaire class" and Wall Street misdeeds a campaign issue.

Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE resorts to denigrating Warren by calling her "Pocahontas."

Why is it that big shots with big salaries and big titles go scot-free? Why aren't they locked up? No, in this country, their company pays a fine and they get to keep their fancy, high-paying jobs. That's wrong. That has to stop.

Corporate CEOs should have to pay the same price as your common petty thief.

Corporate accountability should not be merely a subject matter for academic journals at prestigious business schools. No, it should be a 2016 campaign issue. Not just at the presidential level, but all the way down the ballot.

Let's see if Trump and Democratic nominee Clinton have the guts to raise the issue in the first debate on Monday night. Will either one of them name names and name corporations that are abusing their employees and their customers and putting profit over everything else?

Will either one of the candidates running for the highest office in the land pledge to do away with this jail-free sanctuary for corporate criminals? Or will it just be the same old game?

One last point. As a public service, here is a complete list of the Wells Fargo board of directors, with their current and/or former titles as listed on the Wells Fargo website:

John Baker II: executive chairman, FRP Holdings, Inc.
Elaine Chao: former U.S. Secretary of Labor
John Chen: executive chairman and CEO, BlackBerry Limited
Lloyd Dean: president and CEO, Dignity Health
Elizabeth Duke: former member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors
Susan Engel: retired CEO, Portero, Inc.
Enrique Hernandez Jr.: chairman, president and CEO, Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc.
Donald James: retired chairman, Vulcan Materials Company
Cynthia Milligan: dean emeritus, College of Business Administration, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Federico Peña: senior adviser, Vestar Capital Partners, and former U.S. Secretary of Energy and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation
James Quigley: CEO emeritus and retired partner at Deloitte
Stephen Sanger: retired chairman, General Mills, Inc.
John Stumpf: chairman and CEO, Wells Fargo & Company
Susan Swenson: chair and CEO, Novatel Wireless, Inc.
Suzanne Vautrinot: president, Kilovolt Consulting, Inc. and retired U.S. Air Force major general and commander

How can you hold them accountable if you don't know their names?

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.