Wells Fargo Failing Damage Control


Wells Fargo has been embroiled in a scandal for weeks and is finally communicating directly with customers. In an email, the company didn't quite apologize, but it did acknowledge mistakes. An FAQ on the company's website says little more.


An update on what we're doing to make things right

Wells Fargo home page

Dear [name omitted],


Over the last several weeks, you may have heard about the settlements we've made involving some of our customers receiving products or services that they did not want or request. We are deeply committed to serving you and your financial needs, and in those instances, we did not live up to our commitment. This is inconsistent with our values and with the culture we work hard to maintain. It's not who we are as a company.

It's important for you to know that making things right and restoring the faith you have in us is the very top priority for our entire Wells Fargo leadership team. There is nothing more important than for you to experience the very best from us.

Here's what we're already doing:

  • Putting your interests first: We have eliminated product sales goals for our Retail Banking team members who serve customers in our bank branches and call centers.
  • Proactively communicating with you: We send a confirmation after you open a new consumer or small business checking, savings, or credit card account so that you know what is happening and can tell us if anything we've confirmed is different than what you expected.
  • Full transparency: You can always see your eligible accounts any time when enrolled in Wells Fargo Online®.
  • Fixing what went wrong: We have provided full refunds to customers we have already identified and we're broadening our scope of work to find customers we may have missed. If we have any doubt about whether one of your accounts was authorized, and any fees were incurred on that account, we will contact you and refund fees.

If you have any concerns about your accounts or any aspect of your relationship with Wells Fargo, please come into a branch and speak with our team in person, or call us on our dedicated hotline 24/7 at 1-877-924-8697. We will continue to update wellsfargo.com/commitment to keep you informed.

The trust you place in us means everything and we will work hard every day to earn your trust back.

The message may be too little, too late. Oddly, the email was sent within a day of CEO John Stumpf's resignation, but we see no mention of leadership changes. This may be a missed opportunity. In addition, these types of messages typically take a more personal approach: we would expect to see a signature at the bottom-an indication of someone taking responsibility for making things better, as the company promises. In addition, Wells Fargo has taken out full-page newspaper ads with the same four points as in the customer email.

In the meantime, the news is getting worse. More employees are coming forward saying they had complained about company practices but were ignored. Employees report extreme pressure to sell, and more news is surfacing about which customers were targeted, for example, immigrants with little English and older people.

A New Republic article, "Corporations Ignore Whistleblowers at Their Peril," includes the subtitle, "Wells Fargo could have saved itself some trouble by listening to employees." Employees report worse than being ignored: they suffered retaliation.Wells Fargo employees

Discussion Starters:

  • Assess the email to customers. How could the message be improved?
  • What hope do you see for Wells Fargo? If you were the new CEO, what would you do now?