Wells Fargo Strikes Back

Wells Fargo is actively defending itself against what it calls “intentionally misleading” press reports that forced it to cancel a four-day business and recognition event scheduled for Las Vegas.

In a full-page advertisement in the February 8 editions of The New York Times and Washington Post, John Stumpf, chief executive officer of Wells Fargo & Co., defended the company’s corporate events, saying their purpose was to recognize Wells Fargo’s top bankers, tellers, financial advisers, and mortgage salespeople. But, misleading press reports that created “misperceptions” about the Las Vegas event, forced its cancellation, according to Stumpf.

“The problem is many media stories on this subject have been deliberately misleading,” Stumpf wrote. “These one-sided stories lead you to believe every employee recognition event is a junket, a boondoggle, a waste, or that it’s for highly paid executives. Nonsense!”

Wells Fargo received $25 billion in bailout funds as part of the U.S. government’s original $700 billion rescue plan, announced in the fall. Last week, the company was on the receiving end of some bad publicity after a number of reports were published about a four-day event planned for its mortgage-lending unit at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas. A February 3 press release announced the cancellation: “Late last year, we canceled recognition events for 2009 except those where the financial commitment was so great that no meaningful savings would occur by canceling these events. We had scaled back the mortgage event, but in light of the current environment, we have now decided to cancel this event as well. We do not plan to have any other recognition events this year.”

In the February 9 advertisement, Stumpf said that events like the one Wells Fargo just canceled are held to recognize employees who helped the bank make over $500 billion in loan commitments over the last 18 months.
“For many, it’s the only time in their lives that they’re publicly recognized and thanked for a job well done,” he wrote. “This recognition energizes them. It inspires them.”

Stumpf noted that it is not just Wells Fargo’s top performers who are affected by the cancellations. “Who loses besides our team members?” he wrote. “The workers who depend on our business. The hospitality industry. Hotel housekeepers. Restaurant servers. The airlines.”