Wells Fargo annual meeting roiled by protesters ahead of vote

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Protesters disrupted Wells Fargo’s annual meeting on Tuesday, accusing directors of failing to take responsibility for the sham account scandal that has rocked the US banking industry.

Security was heavy at the bank’s first annual meeting since the crisis at the bank erupted last year, and attendees called on individual directors to explain to shareholders what they knew and when.

At one point the meeting at a hotel conference venue on the outskirts of Jacksonville was suspended as one man was dragged out. Two others, surrounded by guards, left before they also were forcibly removed.

About sixteen security guards and two armed police officers were present along with about 200 attendees.

“You’re saying we’re out of order but Wells Fargo has been out of order for years,” said Bruce Marks of the activist group Neighbourhood Assistance Corporation of America.

Attendees peppered chief executive Tim Sloan and chairman Stephen Sanger with a series of questions and raised grievances ranging from conditions for workers to Mr Sloan’s pay package.

One Wells worker said the pressure at the bank had been “intense”. He said he suffered migraine headaches and went on to develop a brain tumor.

Protesters wanted directors to face the audience. Apart from Mr Sloan and Mr Sanger, all were facing the stage and remained silent.

Mr Sloan told shareholders he was “deeply sorry” for the bank’s behaviour. “You expect and deserve much more from us,” he said. But he said protesters were being “disrespectful” to board members.

Leading shareholder groups have recommended investors vote against the re-election of board members in the wake of the accounts crisis, in which thousands of staff created accounts and credit cards for customers who knew nothing about them.

Photo courtesy of Alistair Gray.

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