Despite a recent scandal related to 2 million unauthorized accounts created on behalf of its unknowing customers, Wells Fargo refused to dismiss his now-ex-CEO John Stumpf. But Sen. Elizabeth Warren forced the bank’s hand in the most unexpected way.
She posted on Facebook the video in which she grilled the banker over the scandal during a senatorial hearing. And she was able to do what not even authorities’ $185 million fine could not: Stumpf announced his “retirement” Wednesday.
The video accrued more than 11 million views and hundreds of thousands of comments in less than a month. So having to face the modern version of an angry mob with torches and pitchforks, Wells Fargo had to back down. Who said public shaming was ineffective?
Without Ms. Warren’s intervention the big loser of the entire story would have been the American public. After the investigation, authorities fined the banking giant $185 million, which is a drop in the ocean compared to its $86 billion revenue. Plus, it has already managed to recover $60 million from its own executives.
But soon after the bank agreed to fork out the fine, the Senate Banking Committee summoned its chief executive to clarify some issues. The hearing, however, became a brutal grilling with Warren’s surgical questions crushing any resistance.
When Warren touched upon the accountability issue and asked Stumpf why he hasn’t resigned yet, he said that it was up to the bank’s board. But ironically, Stumpf is the board’s chair as well.
Analysts pointed out, the committee had no real power over Stumpf in that chamber. Regulators cannot force a private business to sack its employees or hold them accountable. This power indeed rests with the company’s management.
But Warren, a former Harvard law professor, thought it may be a good idea to share the confrontation with the public, and let Americans have the final say. Moments after she posted her 18-minute performance on her Facebook page comments started pouring.
It is highly unusual for a political debate to gain so much traction on the social media. People are often more interested in videos with pups than dull hearings that decide the fate nations.
But Ms. Warren’s performance was far from dull. She squeezed answers from Stumpf with surgical precision, proving she has done her homework. Next, she posted the tirade on the social media.
Her Facebook post was viewed 11 million times. AlterNet reported they posted the video and got 7 million views. Major news outlets posted the clip on their own Facebook pages and racked up more than 1 million views each.
A week later, the bank said it would get $60 million from its CEO and head of community banking who were in charge when the “scam,” as Warren put it, was ongoing.
Now, Stumpf announced he retired.
Even though the senator had no way of using congressional power against the banking giant, her public shaming of Stumpf angered a large enough portion of the population for Wells Fargo to do something about it. Kudos for that, Sen. Warren!
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