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Wells Fargo fires four executives amid probe into account scandal

By Dan Freed
A Wells Fargo Bank is shown in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

By Dan Freed

(Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co has fired four mid-level executives and stripped them of bonuses and stock awards as a result of an investigation into improper sales practices in its retail bank, the company announced on Tuesday.

The board of directors voted unanimously to fire them for cause as part of its investigation into employees opening as many as 2 million deposit and credit card accounts without customers' permission.

Since the scandal and paying a $185 million fine to the U.S. government, the third-largest U.S. bank by deposits has been trying to show it is holding management accountable. The scandal led to the departure of former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf last October, who along with another executive forfeited tens of millions of dollars in compensation.

The most recent firings include Claudia Russ Anderson, former chief risk officer for the Wells Fargo branch banking unit where the sales problems occurred. She took a personal leave from the bank in September, bank spokeswoman Mary Eshet said. Anderson could not be reached for comment.

The others fired by the bank were Pamela Conboy, Arizona lead regional president; Shelley Freeman, former Los Angeles regional president and now head of consumer credit solutions; and Matthew Raphaelson, head of community bank strategy and initiatives. None of them could be reached for comment.

The four executives will not get bonuses for 2016 and will forfeit unvested equity awards and vested outstanding options. The scandal also led to the firing of thousands of low-level executives.

A spokesman for the Wells Fargo board of directors, Paul Scarpetta at Sard Verbinnen & Co, declined to comment further.

Wells Fargo said on Tuesday the board's investigation was ongoing and was expected to be completed before the company's annual shareholder meeting in April.

Wells Fargo shares had little reaction to the news and were up 0.14 percent at $58.19. Wells Fargo shares, along with those of most other banks, have posted strong gains in the months following the U.S. presidential election as investors react to higher interest rates and what they expect to be a more permissive regulatory environment.

In January, the bank reported its fifth straight decline in quarterly earnings as other large banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of America Corp posted gains.


(Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Additional reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Lauren Tara LaCapra and Lisa Shumaker)