The head of an influential industry group for community banks called on federal regulators Wednesday to remove Wells Fargo's board of directors and senior executives for allowing a massive fake accounts scandal to unfold on their watch.
Camden Fine, the head of the influential Independent Community Bankers of America, said he feared that the fallout from the megabank's scandal could endanger community banks' hope for regulatory relief from Congress.
In calling for regulators to take the drastic measure of removing Wells Fargo's board, Fine is aligning himself with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat generally viewed as an antagonist by the financial sector. Warren had called for the removal of Wells Fargo board members as early as June, even before last week's revelation that the bank created far more unwanted accounts for customers than previously thought, 3.5 million altogether.
"On this particular issue we are aligned," Fine said. He explained that the corporate leadership has to be "held accountable when you have massive and systemic wrongdoing at a bank."
Board members and executives at the community banks that make up his group have been removed from their positions and barred from the banking industry for life for less egregious mistakes, Fine said.
"If we were talking about a couple of dozen employees, that's one thing, but when you're talking about thousands of employees ... that's cultural, that's systemic," he said. "Where the hell have senior management of the bank been? Where the hell has the board been, during years of mismanagement?"
John Stumpf, Wells Fargo's CEO when the scandal was unearthed last fall, did resign, as did other executives. Fine suggested that the new CEO, Tim Sloan, should also be removed.
Although the community bank group often works with big banks on shared priorities in Congress and in the administration, the smaller banks sometimes chafe against the perception that the biggest banks like Wells Fargo are "too big to fail" or receive preferential treatment.
And in the case of Wells Fargo's scandal, some fear that the push for regulatory relief, led by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans, could be hampered by the appearance that it would aid the troubled megabank.