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December 20, 2022

CFPB’s Latest Action Against Wells Fargo’s Years-Long, Widespread, Repeated Lawbreaking Again Raises the Question “Is It Time to Break Up Wells Fargo?”

WASHINGTON, D.C.— President and CEO Dennis M. Kelleher issued the following statement in response to the CFPB’s latest action against widespread lawbreaking at Wells Fargo:

“The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is to be applauded for its latest action against Wells Fargo, including for imposing a $1.7 billion fine on top of ordering the bank to pay more than $2 billion in restitution to the bank’s victimized customers.  It is disappointing, however, that the CFPB did not sanction the individuals involved in this lawbreaking.  Banks won’t stop breaking the law until bankers are personally and severely punished.  As important, given the repeated, egregious nature of the lawbreaking by one of the nation’s largest banks, it is past time for financial regulators to determine if Wells Fargo should be broken up.

“The breadth, depth, scope, and length of the repeated lawbreaking at Wells Fargo, as detailed by the CFPB order today, is stunning.  Coming on top of the multiple, substantial sanctions imposed for Wells Fargo’s past illegal conduct over the years, including the ongoing asset cap by the Federal Reserve and the mortgage servicing cap by the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), this latest litany of lawbreaking cannot be fairly characterized or dismissed as mere ‘mismanagement.’  This type of longstanding pattern and practice of illegal activities is more frequently seen in criminal enterprises, not at gigantic U.S. banks.  Any other business in America with such a recidivist record of breaking the law, this time harming over 16 million customers, would almost certainly have already been shut down.

“While most of the latest misconduct, including the most egregious, goes back many years, the auto and overdraft violations extend into the term of the current CEO.  The bank’s current leadership appears seriously committed to addressing and fixing the many problems at Wells Fargo, but, as the CFPB pointed out, they are also focused on ‘product launches, growth initiatives, and other efforts to increase profits [that] have delayed needed reform.’

“The CEO has now been there since September 2019, more than three years, and, with the fifth anniversary of the Fed’s asset cap coming up on February 2, 2023, it is time for financial regulators to determine whether Wells Fargo can ever come into full and sustained compliance with the law.  They need to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the bank and its many activities to determine whether it should be broken up into some number of smaller financial institutions that can be run and managed in compliance with the law, as literally thousands of other banks in the U.S. do every day.  It is not fair to law-abiding banks, Wells Fargo’s customers, or the financial system for a bank to engage in such flagrant, widespread, years-long repeated misconduct and to be merely fined year-in and year-out.  The punishment should fit the crime and here that punishment would appear to be to break up this recidivist bank.”


Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded to promote the public interest in the financial markets, support the financial reform of Wall Street and make our financial system work for all Americans again. Better Markets works with allies—including many in finance—to promote pro-market, pro-business and pro-growth policies that help build a stronger, safer financial system that protects and promotes Americans’ jobs, savings, retirements and more. To learn more, visit

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