Lawmakers to Wells Fargo CEO: “Why shouldn’t you be in jail?”

By Renae Merle

John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo, speaks during a House Financial Services Committee on Thursday (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

For the second time in two weeks, John G. Stumpf, the long-time chief executive of Wells Fargo, entered into the halls of Congress to take a bipartisan beating from lawmakers over the bank’s role in a scandal involving the creation of hundreds of thousands of sham accounts to meet aggressive sales goals.

“Fraud is fraud and theft and is theft. What happened at Wells Fargo over the course of many years cannot be described any other way,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called the case “some of the egregious fraud we have seen since the financial crisis.” Wells Fargo has turned into a “school for scoundrels,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.).

Stumpf has repeatedly apologized for those misdeeds and agreed earlier this week to forfeit $41 million in his own personal unvested stock and go without a 2016 bonus. “I am fully accountable for all unethical sales practices in our retail banking business, and I am fully committed to fixing this issue, strengthening our culture, and taking the necessary actions to restore our customers’ trust,” he told the House Financial Services Committee.

[Critics say Wells Fargo CEO should forfeit more than $41 million after sales scandal]

But the hearing quickly turned hostile as some lawmakers called for Stumpf to resign and questioned whether he should be criminally prosecuted.

“Why shouldn’t you be in jail?” Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) asked. “When prosecutors get hold of you, you are going to have a lot of fun.”

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