Former executive: Wells Fargo acted like ‘mafia’ to suppress internal critics

Wells Fargo
Greg Nash

A former chief executive for Wells Fargo’s European investment bank criticized the lender’s other executives, claiming they acted like “a mafia” and were not addressing regulatory concerns, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“It’s like a mafia, literally,” said Alicia Reyes, who left Wells Fargo in January 2020 and spoke to a former contractor during an April 2020 call, according to the Journal.  “This place is just a scheme. There’s no intention of actually solving problems or building things. There’s just smoke and mirrors and a coverup.”

“The pile of regulatory problems that they have is so large,” Reyes added, according to the Journal. “There are much bigger issues that they are also sweeping under the carpet.”

The phone call was recorded by Ville-Valtteri Helenius, who had worked for the bank between October 2018 and December 2019, according to the Journal.

He had been working on a project to make sure that Wells Fargo was in compliance with British financial regulation laws. He is suing the bank for wrongful termination after he raised red flags within the company that the bank was failing to comply with U.K. regulations.

The call was submitted to a U.K. court by Helenius and his lawyer for the suit.

The Journal reported that people with knowledge of the recording said Reyes was unaware she was being recorded. Reyes currently works at Spanish lender Banco Sabadell as a director. She also works at Ferrovial, a Spanish construction company, as a director, according to the Journal.

Reyes declined to comment to The Wall Street Journal.

“We strongly deny the claims and await the tribunal’s verdict. We operate in compliance with the regulatory framework and we take these obligations very seriously,” a Wells Fargo spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill regarding the U.K. suit. 

“Since joining Wells Fargo in late 2019, CEO and president Charlie Scharf has undertaken a series of actions to put these historic issues behind us including adding new management, building effective risk and control frameworks, and evolving the company’s culture, policies and procedures to create long lasting change at Wells Fargo on how we conduct ourselves, work with our colleagues, and make decisions,” the spokesperson added.

The Hill has reached out to Reyes’s current employer, Banco Sabadell, for comment.

—Updated at 1:26 p.m.

Tags Banking Regulation Wells Fargo

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