Congressman Sean Duffy shouted at Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf on Thursday morning, pushing the embattled bank executive to admit that the money missing from customers’ accounts was stolen by the bank. Duffy seemed well-aware that the cameras were rolling as he tried to get Stumpf to say the word “steal” out loud.
Each time Stumpf attempted to answer the question of how he would “classify” what had happened at Wells Fargo, Duffy cut him off, and asked his question again.
“When you took 22 to 25 dollars from — whatever the numbers — maybe it’s one million, maybe it’s two million, how do you classify that” Duffy asked.
Stumpf put his hand off and began to tick off his responses on his fingers. “I think it was dishonest” he said, holding up his first finger. “It broke our code of ethics, and the people who were responsible …”
Duffy cut in. “Was it theft?”
“Pardon me?” Stumpf asked.
“Was it theft? Did you steal?” Duffy, clearly looking for a scalp, wanted Stumpf to say the word.
Stumpf tried to finesse his answer. “Our people did not do what was right,” he said.
Duffy, sensing blood, pressed on. “My question is, did you steal? I want to make sure you and I are on the same page. Did Wells Fargo employees steal from a million to two million customers? Yes or no?
Stumpf conceded: “In some cases. They did. Yes.”
Duffy took this as an opportunity to lecture Stumpf on business ethics, reminding Stumpf that banking is “built on trust” and that if a bank such as Wells Fargo had been opened in Duffy’s community, that on “day one,” someone would have “been fired. And fix the problem.”
Duffy introduced legislation to de-fang the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, for which Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been a steadfast champion.
The late Senator Warren Magnuson used to say that in Congress, there were show horses and work horses. While Duffy got his scalp today, and made a good show of it for the FOX audience, his attempts to weaken consumer protection vis a vis the banks undermines his moral outrage. But it looked great on camera.
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