Wells Fargo & Co. has fired the head of its consumer credit-card business and three other senior managers as the bank’s board examines how abusive sales practices spread through branches before breaking out as a national scandal in 2016.
Among those who were terminated was Shelley Freeman, the former Los Angeles regional president who went on to run consumer-credit solutions, along with Arizona lead regional president Pam Conboy, former community bank risk chief Claudia Russ Anderson and Matthew Raphaelson, who led community bank strategy and initiatives. The bank announced the moves in a statement Tuesday, saying the four won’t get bonuses for 2016 and will forfeit unvested equity awards and outstanding options. Freeman and Conboy were among managers described by Bloomberg in a November story that profiled community banking supervisors who won promotions as the bank’s top brass focused on cross-selling, the practice of persuading individual customers to sign up for more Wells Fargo products.
Since September, Wells Fargo’s leaders have been working to assuage public furor after authorities fined the bank $185 million for possibly opening more than 2 million retail bank accounts without customers’ approval. The board and management are each conducting reviews into how the practice proliferated, and has vowed to hold managers accountable as needed after the company fired 5,300 mostly low-level employees for their roles in recent years.
After overseeing operations in Los Angeles, Freeman went to run Florida, where she emailed branch workers and urged them to sell. Former employees said that she described the kind of lifestyle they might hope to achieve, if they did as they were told. She once mentioned her Super Bowl tickets and buying an $800 pair of sunglasses, one ex-manager recalled. Conboy, 57, who climbed the ranks in California, was sometimes sent to other regions to teach sales strategies, managers said.
The bank didn’t specify on Tuesday what conduct prompted the four managers to be ousted, and authorities haven’t accused any of them of wrongdoing.
Wells Fargo’s board had a unanimous vote to terminate the managers and it is expected that the investigation will be finished before an annual shareholder meeting in April, according to the statement. The panel is discussing what materials will be made public after the review and may yet release information on its findings involving the four, according a person with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity to discuss the deliberations.
Wells Fargo already has eliminated sales goals that authorities said may have encouraged abuses. Politicians and labor groups had accused the company of putting undue pressure on workers to meet targets, then blaming them for misconduct without holding senior managers accountable.
Reportedly, the board will probably make a decision to withhold 2016 bonuses from some top executives including Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan and Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry, as a way to hold managers accountable for the retail bank’s performance.
Freeman declined to comment, and the other three managers didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.