Can the Wells Fargo Brand Recover from a Tarnished Ethical Lapse?

The Truth always comes out.  That is an easy statement to make and one that I have lived over and over – especially when it comes to dumb stupid choices that I’ve made that have come back to bite me.  Wells Fargo, as a company, can certainly identify with it’s share of “in the media” challenges since the truth of millions of phony accounts, fake bank card PIN’s and fake email accounts came to the surface.  It seemed that Wells Fargo’s culture of ethics was lacking.

Wells Fargo fired some 5,300 employees and has paid well over $185 million in penalties and fines – and of course, apologized.

With all the negative publicity which has created costs and consequences well beyond what most folks could envision for Wells Fargo – where do they go now moving forward?

Wells Fargo – Ethics Standards

It’s easy to dwell on the past and continue the negative publicity, but as an ethics consultant and speaker, I have to ask myself is that promoting good or dwelling on bad ethics?  I’d prefer to look forward to see what Wells Fargo is saying now.

Here’s a link to Wells Fargo’s current Ethics Policy.  Several things stand out.  The ethics policy states:

Our ethics are the sum of all the decisions each of us makes every day.
We have a responsibility to always act with honesty and integrity. When we do so, we earn the trust of our customers. We have to earn that trust every day by behaving ethically, rewarding open, honest communication, and holding ourselves accountable for our decisions and actions.
The statement in the Ethics Policy states it all.  The challenge for Wells Fargo is to live out in their actions what they have printed and stated in their ethics policy.  It’s easy to write something.  It’s quite another thing to live out those actions.  Having failed in that regard personally I know how hard it is to live what you say and find forgiveness when you fail.  Rebuilding trust is a daily activity and one that requires considerable effort.
 Doing “What’s Right for Customers” was the root of the problem with Wells Fargo.  When Wells Fargo (or any business) focuses on what seems to be best for the business vs what’s best for the customer – there is likely an outcome that will not be acceptable to the organization.  Today I suspect that Wells Fargo has learned from that very costly mistake.

What if an Employee Feels this is not enough?

Closing the loop – Our approach to ethics and business conduct must continually evolve to stay current with new and emerging risk areas. Once you’ve made a decision, ask yourself the following additional question:
Do you believe there are sufficient standards, policies and team member resources in place to address the issue you faced – or should more be done?
If you believe more should be done, contact the Office of Global Ethics and Integrity. Your suggestions will help us improve our ethics and compliance programs.
For sure Wells Fargo is taking the concept of fixing a pervasive problem.  Will it be fixed over night?  NO!  Is it likely, however, that Wells Fargo employees are committed to a better work place and service to their customers?  Likely, YES!  Perhaps it’s now time to give Wells Fargo a change to fix the broken and failed programs of the past and move forward into a new ethical realm.






Posted by Chuck Gallagher in Banking Ethics and tagged , , .

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