Waters asks DOJ to consider criminal charge against former Wells Fargo CEO
Rep. Maxine Waters on Tuesday asked the Department of Justice to consider the possibility of a criminal charge against former Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan for making what she contends were inaccurate and misleading comments during his congressional testimony last year.
Waters, a California Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, sent the referral letter on the same day that Wells Fargo’s current CEO, Charlie Scharf, testified before the panel.
In the letter, Waters stated that Sloan’s March 2019 testimony involves a “potential violation” of the federal statute that prohibits knowingly and willfully making a false statement to Congress.
Waters asked the DOJ to review both Sloan’s testimony and a report on Wells Fargo that the Democratic staff of the House panel released last week, and to take any action that it deems appropriate.
The House Democrats’ report revealed that in the immediate aftermath of Sloan’s congressional testimony, staffers at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency privately questioned its accuracy.
During the March 12, 2019, hearing, Waters asked Sloan about the bank’s remediation plans for customers who paid for unnecessary auto insurance. In response, Sloan stated that the San Francisco bank was in compliance with provisions of the relevant OCC consent order.
But in an internal email that was described in the House Democrats’ report, a senior OCC official said that Wells Fargo was actually not in compliance with one of two portions of its remediation plans.
Amid pressure by regulators on the bank’s board to oust its CEO, Sloan stepped down in late March.
House Republicans last week released their own report on Wells Fargo, which was also critical of Sloan, but did not accuse him of making false statements to Congress.
Instead, the GOP staff report concluded that Sloan made incomplete and overly optimistic public statements about the bank’s progress toward complying with regulatory orders, and that his predictions on the timeline for completing that work were unsupported by the facts on the ground.
Sloan could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday, but his lawyer, Josh Cohen, said the allegations are "completely unfounded."
"Mr. Sloan described the considerable efforts that Wells Fargo made under his leadership to comply with the consent orders and directives of regulators. His testimony to the Committee about those efforts was truthful and in good faith," Cohen said.
Spokespeople for Wells Fargo and the Department of Justice declined to comment.