Sometimes, no matter what, people don’t learn. Even after a string of major national PR crises, Wells Fargo is in the news, yet again, for another in a growing string of scandals. This time, though, the bank took immediate, public action to punish those responsible.
Headlines are screaming that Wells Fargo recently “fired or suspended at least a dozen employees” in the company’s investment division, Wells Fargo Securities, after credible reports emerged that those people had been falsifying expense reports, asking the bank to pay for their dinners out, as if they were on company time. While this behavior is not a violation of customer rights or privacy, it is a violation of Wells Fargo’s code of conduct, and it appears to be a widespread activity, as many other employees are currently being investigated. Some reports, including a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, say that the practice had been happening for months, long after the other scandals led to mass firings and major consumer frustration with the brand.
This “scandal” certainly won’t reach the same level of the fake account scandal that caused thousands to lose their jobs and millions to furiously check their credit reports and close their accounts, it’s more bad news… and that’s something Wells Fargo could definitely do without. Wells Fargo does not need consumers to see yet another example of company employees misusing money, for any reason in any context. To get out in front of any new waves of consumer anger, Wells Fargo issued a statement to the media which read, in part: “We became aware that certain Wells Fargo Securities team members were not complying with after-hours meal reimbursement policies, after they were brought to the attention of leaders by concerned team members. We took action to address the issues and we continue to investigate the matter.”
That was a strong and definitive statement detailing decisive action in an embarrassing situation. It could even be the first link in a chain that ends on a positive PR note for the company.
This is a brand in desperate need of a public win. They need some positive PR momentum, and, more than anything else, they need the negative stories to stop. The company did well, in this case, to severely punish the bad actors as the news was coming out, letting a jaded consumer base know that they are serious about turning their reputation around. That’s a decent first step, but they have a long way to go.
About Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.