Wells Fargo Board Members Hold Onto Jobs Amid Raucous Meeting

(CN) – Wells Fargo board members kept their jobs after a particularly raucous shareholder meeting on Tuesday, though the embattled bank’s problems are not yet over.

Shareholders let all 15 board members stay on the corporate board, though four directors received less than 60 percent of the vote. Last year, before the bank’s scandals became national news, all the directors received more than 90 percent approval votes.

The shareholder meeting, held at a hotel in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is the first since the bank became engulfed in a massive controversy over unfair business practices. Wells Fargo workers are accused of setting up millions of accounts without customers’ permission – a practice critics said was known at the highest levels of the company.

The scandal cost CEO John Stumpf his job and $41 million in stock options. Four senior employees at the heart of the controversy lost their jobs as well as thousands of lower level workers. The bank paid more than $185 million in fines. Wells Fargo still faces investigations from the U.S. Department of Justice and state attorney generals, and several class-action lawsuits.

But shareholders were determined to keep the pressure on management and the board of directors in the latest meeting.

For three hours, several shareholders criticized the board, including a representative from the AFL-CIO labor group who urged those present to vote the entire board out.

The meeting was briefly recessed following an outburst from a community activist, who was dragged out by security. Other shareholders were asked to leave after interruptions.

In the end, though, shareholders voted to keep the board, even though a handful of directors barely held on with less than a 60 percent approval.

After the meeting, Wells Fargo Chairman Stephen Sanger released a statement acknowledging the dispirited vote.

“Wells Fargo stockholders today have sent the entire board a clear message of dissatisfaction,” said Sanger, who only received a 56 percent approval vote. “Let me assure you that the board has heard that message, and we recognize there is still a great deal of work to do to rebuild the trust of stockholders, customers and employees.”

“In our conversations with stockholders, many have told us they support the substantial and wide-ranging actions taken by the board and management over the last seven months to address the root causes of sales practice issues, enforce accountability and ensure that such improper behavior is not repeated,” he continued. “Yet they also feel the understandable need to hold the entire board accountable for not moving quickly enough before that to address these issues – and that is the reason why all except our newest directors received support from 80 percent or less of shares voted today.”

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