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Senator Warren urges U.S. Fed to fire Wells Fargo directors

By Patrick Rucker

WASHINGTON, June 19 (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren on Monday urged the Federal Reserve to fire 12 directors who served on Wells Fargo & Co's board during the time thousands of bank employees opened phony accounts in customers' names without permission.

"I urge you to exercise your legal authority to remove the holdover Wells Fargo board members," Warren, who has championed consumer rights and is seen as a possible 2020 presidential candidate, wrote in a letter to the U.S. central bank.

Warren said the Fed, which regulates bank holding companies, had the right to take such action when a lender had assumed too much risk, which she said applied in the case of Wells Fargo, the third largest U.S. bank.

Warren is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee.

Wells Fargo's reputation was damaged last year after revelations that employees had created as many as 2.1 million unauthorized accounts to hit aggressive sales targets set by management.

In April of this year, investors voted to back the Wells Fargo board by a narrow margin.

A Fed spokesman said the central bank had received Warren's letter on Monday and planned to respond.

Wells Fargo said on Monday it had already taken steps to recover from its crisis and hold executives accountable.

"That work continues and remains a core part of our efforts to build a better Wells Fargo for the future," a company spokeswoman said.

The Fed has removed members of bank holding companies' boards in the past.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen told U.S. lawmakers last year that her staff was seeking out abuses among the largest Wall Street banks because of what she described as "a very disturbing pattern of violations."

(Reporting by Patrick Rucker; Editing by Paul Simao)