Former Wells Fargo Senior Executive Carrie Tolstedt Agrees to Settle SEC Fraud Charges for Misleading Investors About Abusive Sales Practices to Inflate a Key Performance Metric
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced its settlement with the former head of Wells Fargo & Co.’s Community Bank, Carrie L. Tolstedt, in which she has agreed to pay a $3 million penalty stemming from charges brought in 2020 for her role in allegedly misleading investors about the success of the Community Bank, Wells Fargo’s core business. The SEC previously settled related charges against Wells Fargo and its former CEO and Chairman, John Stumpf.
According to the SEC’s complaint against Tolstedt, from mid-2014 through mid-2016, Tolstedt publicly described and endorsed Wells Fargo’s “cross-sell metric” as a means of measuring Wells Fargo’s financial success despite the fact that this metric was inflated by accounts and services that were unused, unneeded, or unauthorized. The complaint further alleges that Tolstedt knew the cross-sell metric did not accurately track accounts or products that customers needed or used, since she was aware of misconduct at the Community Bank that led to bankers pushing products on customers that they did not need or want, including the unauthorized opening of accounts. The complaint alleges that Tolstedt made misleading public statements to investors at Wells Fargo’s investor conferences in 2014 and 2016, and signed misleading sub-certifications as to the accuracy of Wells Fargo’s public disclosures when she knew or was reckless in not knowing that statements in those disclosures regarding Wells Fargo’s cross-sell metric were materially false and misleading.
“Companies do not act on their own. Where the facts warrant it, we will hold senior executives accountable for conduct that violates the securities laws,” said Monique C. Winkler, Regional Director of the SEC’s San Francisco Regional Office.
Tolstedt, without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, agreed to a final judgment permanently enjoining her from violating, or aiding and abetting violations of, the antifraud and other provisions of the federal securities laws and imposing a permanent officer-and-director bar. In addition to the $3 million civil penalty, Tolstedt agreed to pay disgorgement of $1,459,076 plus prejudgment interest of $447,874. The SEC will combine this money with $500 million paid by Wells Fargo and the $2.5 million penalty paid by Stumpf in previous settlements and distribute the sum to harmed investors. The settlement is subject to court approval.
The SEC’s complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The litigation was conducted by Susan LaMarca, Erin Wilk, Victor Hong, John Roscigno, and Horace Austin of the SEC’