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Practice Management > Building Your Business

3 Execs Exit Embattled Wells Fargo

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Deanna Lindquist, a deputy general counsel overseeing human resources and other matters, has left Wells Fargo & Co. along with two other executives, according to the bank.

The departures appear to be part of the continued fallout after San Francisco-based Wells Fargo’s phony account scandal. Two of the employees were referenced by name in an April 2017 report on the bank’s misconduct. The third, Lindquist, was head of the employment law section during several years of the period that the report cited in its criticism of employment lawyers and the legal department. None of the three employees could immediately be reached for comment for this story.

Aimee Worsley, Wells Fargo spokeswoman for human resources, declined to answer questions from Corporate Counsel, a partner site to ThinkAdvisor, about the departures. Worsley said, “I can confirm that the three employees no longer work for Wells Fargo. I don’t have anything additional to share.”

Wells Fargo agreed in September 2016 to pay $185 million in penalties to federal regulators over pressure sales practices that allowed bank employees to open 3.5 million fake accounts using customer information. Since the scandal, Wells Fargo has already replaced its CEO, its general counsel and its head of community banking, among others.

The board of directors hired Shearman & Sterling to conduct an independent investigation. The law firm’s report released on April 10, 2017, heavily criticized Wells Fargo’s community banking section, but also blamed the human resources and legal departments for failing to spot and report a growing pattern of fraud that was raised in whistleblower complaints and through employee firings.

Allen Parker, who took over the general counsel post at Wells Fargo last year, recently told Corporate Counsel that he and management were still analyzing the report and making changes to respond to its findings.

The report refers several times to employment lawyers who handled cases involving employees who were fired for sales misconduct, and who claimed they were following orders from supervisors. But the lawyers simply settled the cases. This lack of lawyer awareness of a larger problem continued through much of 2016, the report said.

It went on, “Notwithstanding the growing awareness of the reputational risk associated with mass terminations, and the fact that many of these incidents involved unauthorized products or accounts, the perception persisted in the law department that sales integrity issues involved ‘gaming’ the community bank’s incentive programs and not conduct affecting customers. That led them to underestimate the need to escalate and more directly manage sales integrity issues.”

Lindquist joined the legal department at Wachovia Corp. in 2002, which was acquired by Wells Fargo in 2009, after graduating with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law. She could not be reached for comment.

In 2012 the bank named her senior vice president and head of its employment section. In 2016 she was promoted to executive vice president and deputy GC for its enterprise services division. A previous deputy GC for enterprise services was referenced critically in the report by title, but not by name. The position oversees human resources legal issues and its lawyers, among other duties.

Departing along with Lindquist was Charlotte-based executive vice president Tracy Kidd, who headed the human resources department in the community banking division, and Denver-based John Sotoodeh, president of community banking in the Mountain Midwest region.

The Shearman & Sterling report specifically named Kidd, who had been with the company 25 years, and Sotoodeh, who had spent 28 years at Wells Fargo.

“Kidd believed that the community bank was proceeding appropriately to address the sales practice issues in 2014 to 2016,” it said.

According to the report, Sotoodeh “displayed a high pressure management style” and had previously headed community banking in Los Angeles when it became “the epicenter” for sales misconduct.

— Check out Wells Fargo’s 2017 Silver Lining Is Drop in CFPB Complaints on ThinkAdvisor.


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