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February 21, 2020

RELEASE: Department of Justice and SEC Again Fail to Take Action Against Actual Criminals in Latest Wells Fargo Settlement that Just Punishes Shareholders

Friday, February 21, 2020
Contact: 202-618-6433,

Washington, D.C.  –  Dennis M. Kelleher, President and Chief Executive Officer of Better Markets, issued the following statement regarding the settlement announced today among the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Wells Fargo & Co.:

“For more than a decade, Wells Fargo ran a brazen, widespread criminal enterprise involving tens of thousands of employees that defrauded millions of customers and misled tens of millions of investors.  The executives and supervisors who ran the bank during that time period, and who knew or should have known – and stopped – that criminal conduct, pocketed hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in fraudulently inflated compensation.  Yet, the settlements announced today take no action against any of them.

“Instead, the Department of Justice and the SEC are extracting $3 billion from Wells Fargo.  This is in addition to more than $2 billion that Wells Fargo has already paid in connection with the crimes.  That $5 billion comes from Wells Fargo’s shareholders.

“Those fines do nothing to punish the actual lawbreakers and will not deter future lawbreaking.  In fact, by letting the executives and supervisors get away with their bonuses and compensation inflated by their illegal conduct, prosecutors and regulators are incentivizing future lawbreaking.

“Only when individual executives and supervisors are personally punished with meaningful fines, clawed-back compensation, industry bars and prison time will this type of illegal behavior be deterred.  Eye-popping fines paid by shareholders years after the fact are just theater that enable prosecutors and regulators to mislead the public into thinking they are tough on crime, when the real wrongdoers go unpunished.  Sure, the prosecutors reserved the right to go after individuals, but they have done that in every other big bank settlement and then not taken any action after they got their big fine and big headline.”


Better Markets is a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization founded in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis 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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