WASHINGTON — The CEO of Wells Fargo faced accusations of fraud and calls for his resignation Tuesday from harshly critical senators at a hearing over allegations that bank employees opened millions of accounts customers didn’t know about to meet sales quotas.

Members of the Senate Banking Committee showed bipartisan outrage over the long-running conduct, unsatisfied by Chief Executive John Stumpf’s show of contrition.

Stumpf said he was “deeply sorry” that the bank failed to meet its responsibility to customers and didn’t act sooner to stem “this unacceptable activity.” He promised to assist affected customers.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Stumpf he should step down. “You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers,” she said. “You should resign. You should give back the money you took while the scam was going on.”

The Massachusetts Democrat also advocated for a criminal investigation by the Justice Department and securities regulators.

Stumpf, a 34-year veteran of Wells Fargo and CEO since 2007, earned $19.3 million last year. The bank does have in place provisions its board could implement to claim back executive compensation.

Wells Fargo sales employees, trying to meet targets that called for every customer have eight products with the bank, opened more than 2 million bank and credit card accounts, regulators said last week in levying a $185 million fine.

Money in customers’ accounts was said to have been moved to these new accounts without their permission. Debit cards were issued and activated, as well as PINs created, without telling customers. In some cases, bank employees even created fake email addresses to sign up customers for online banking services, the regulators said.

Stumpf bristled at Warren’s suggestion that the sales practices were a “scam.”

He defended the cross-selling of products – trying to draw customers into taking on more – as “deepening relationships.”

The senators also challenged assertions that Stumpf and other Wells Fargo senior executives didn’t become aware of the problems until 2013 – when the sales misconduct was reported by The Los Angeles Times. The practices apparently began at least in 2009.

Carrie Tolstedt, the former head of the retail banking business, announced in July that she would retire this year. She is expected to leave with as much as $125 million in compensation.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said it would be “malpractice” if the bank doesn’t institute the compensation clawbacks,.

Under the settlement with regulators, Wells Fargo neither admitted nor denied the allegations. It said it plans to eliminate the sales targets by Jan. 1. Some 5,300 Wells Fargo employees have been fired.


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