Prior to 2011 WFC sold for 15X earnings on a regular basis. It is a stronger bank today than it was three years ago. Based on estimated earnings of $3.75 for 2012, it looks like the stock still has $10 upside before it is fully priced. At $4.00 earnings in 2014, $60 seems to be a definite possibility.
I am not saying that WFC cannot trade at a high multiple anymore, however it used to tout itself to be a growth stock during their CC', now the CEO is more apt to portray itself as a stodgy old boring company.
USbank is trading at its old multiple because its ROE is back to 19%., WFC' ROE will probably never return to its old glory days of 19% ROE.
Wells Fargo is no longer the same company it used to be historically, comparing its old p/e ratio probably is not a good indicator.. Safetfy is not what determines p/e multiples, rather growth is a more predictable indicator.
Perceived safety is definitely a determining factor in P/E. Why else would stocks like JNJ, PG, and KO be trading at 17-20x earnings? It's not their 5-7% growth rates. And it's not their dividends, which are in line with some of the lower-multiple megabanks.
Looking back a couple of years, stodgy and boring has done pretty well against exciting and reckless. I have an average price of $29 and change, with an initial purchase in 2011, so I guess I still see it as a growth stock.