Tired of being cast as the poster child for big banks behaving badly, Wells Fargo & Co has been expanding its presence in the nation’s capital to convince lawmakers it has changed and talking up its charitable work in their districts.
In the past the bank’s lobbying efforts had been modest, but over the past 18 months, Wells Fargo has added more than 15 people to its Washington team, tripling its size, and is still hiring. The bank has also contracted big-name firms including Ogilvy and Federal Street Strategies, whose principals previously worked for powerful lawmakers, financial regulators or President Donald Trump, according to interviews and filings reviewed by Reuters.
Wells Fargo has also been highlighting millions of dollars spent on programs dedicated to homelessness, housing for veterans and financial literacy in key lawmakers’ districts to win back their favor, bank representatives said.
“We have a lot of projects in a lot of communities that we are proud of, and we do have those conversations with elected officials,” David Moskowitz, head of government relations at the fourth-largest U.S. lender, told Reuters. “Our plan is to engage with virtually everyone on Capitol Hill on both sides of the aisle.”
Moskowitz said he expected his team to meet with important government officials or staff almost every day.
Wells Fargo launched its charm offensive to limit the blowback from a sales scandal that erupted in September 2016, with revelations that employees opened potentially millions of phony accounts in customers’ names without their permission. The bank has disclosed other problems since then, including enrolling hundreds of thousands of customers in costly products such as auto insurance, that they did not need or want.
In an unprecedented move in February, the U.S. Federal Reserve imposed an asset cap on Wells Fargo. In April, two U.S. regulators jointly fined the bank $1 billion for mistreating auto borrowers. Authorities including the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Labor are still conducting their own probes.