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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

DOJ Expands Sales Review to Wells Fargo Wealth Unit: Report

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Two weeks after Wells Fargo said it was reviewing some overcharges and incorrect wealth management fees, as well as possibly “inappropriate” referrals and recommendations affecting 401(k) rollovers to its wealth unit, the role of regulators in the probe of these practices is becoming clearer.

The Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission are involved, and agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been speaking with some employees of the wealth unit in Phoenix, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Wells Fargo declined to comment on the matter, but referred to a statement in its annual report: “Our top priority is to rebuild trust with all of our stakeholders. … We are making significant progress in our work to identify and fix any issues, make things right, and build a better, stronger company.”

The DOJ asked Wells Fargo for an independent review of practices at its wealth unit after whistleblowers revealed problems there, the Journal said, adding that the current investigation by the DOJ and SEC is separate from the bank’s own inquiry. Employees have pointed to issues with the bank’s own investment products.

“Now the investigation is finally hitting [its] advisory business,” said recruiter Danny Sarch of Leitner Sarch Consultants, in an interview earlier this month. “This is a big deal. Earlier investigations were related to banking.”

The new details about the wealth-unit investigation come just days after Wells Fargo said that CEO Tim Sloan received a 36% bump in pay to $17.4 million — a move heavily criticized by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others — and one month after the Federal Reserve barred the bank from growing its balance sheet.

The Fed development is tied to issues that have plagued the bank for the past 18 months or so, mainly concerning fraudulent sales practices within its retail bank.

— Check out Galvin Targets Wells Fargo Wealth Unit on ThinkAdvisor.


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