Wells Fargo says it is changing a policy singled out by legislators this week in a letter to bank CEO Tim Sloan.
In their letter, six members of the Senate Banking Committee refer to a Wall Street Journal report that branch employees were allegedly asked to work late in order to shred and doctor documents after managers received early warnings that their branches would be visited by internal compliance officers.
Without denying or admitting to the allegations, Wells Fargo explains that it plans “to eliminate the policy that allows branches to get advance notice before annual visits by internal reviewers” by March 31, according to a statement.
“This policy was originally in place so each branch could ensure it is staffed to assist with the review and maintain customer experience,” the bank explained. “It is important to note that for nearly 10 years, Wells Fargo has pulled digital copies of new account forms and signature cards to review them in advance of branch visit reviews with no advance notice to team members.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and her colleagues asked Sloan to respond by Feb. 17 to 15 questions about the branches being tipped off to upcoming inspections as well the possible destruction and concealment of evidence tied to the bank’s recent fake-accounts scandal.
“We are troubled by the possibility that Wells Fargo’s retail bank branch managers engaged in activities that made it easier to conceal fraudulent practices that hurt both customers and employees,” they said in the letter.
This news comes less than a week after Warren asked the Department of Labor for an update on its investigation into Wells Fargo & Co.’s sales practices; she and others were unable to access a website the DOL had set up to track complaints from the bank’s employees.
“We are also concerned that Wells Fargo’s internal review system was allowed to operate with serious flaws for years, remains flawed, and lacks appropriate controls to prevent future harm to the bank’s customers,” the senators said in the letter. “It is also not clear precisely when senior management or the board became aware of these issues.”