Wells Fargo to stop giving branches advance notice of inspections

By Dan Freed |

Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) will eliminate its policy of notifying branches a day in advance before they are visited by internal inspectors, a bank spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The decision comes after the Wall Street Journal reported on the advance notice, describing how it gave employees time to cover up problematic sales practices by shredding documents and forging signatures.

Mary Eshet, a spokeswoman for the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, confirmed that Wells Fargo will halt the practice.

“To the extent the 24 hour notice could be an issue or be perceived as an issue, we want to take that off the table,” she wrote via email.

She added that many aspects of the branch inspection process, including new account documentation, involve electronic signatures which are reviewed outside the branches ahead of the visits.

She would not comment directly on the allegations in the report, but said the behavior described has always been against policies.

Wells Fargo is conducting a broad internal review of its sales practices after it settled charges that it created as many 2 million credit card and checking accounts without customer authorization.

The $190 million settlement, announced in September, hammered the bank’s share price and led to the resignation of then-Chief Executive John Stumpf.

The shares have recovered amid a broad-based banking sector rally following the November U.S. presidential election.

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