Wells Seeks Distance From Goldman Fray

Wells Fargo CFO Howard Atkins told an investor conference that the bank's interests are firmly in line with customers -- a veiled reference to Goldman's recent troubles.
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) -- At a

Wells Fargo

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investor conference last week, CFO Howard Atkins gave a thinly-veiled knock at a competitor that isn't even much of a competitor:

Goldman Sachs

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In discussing Wells Fargo's plans for future success and risk management, Atkins touched upon the recent hullabaloo over Goldman's bubble-era activities. Goldman is now facing civil fraud charges, and a reported criminal investigation, because of a deal that pitted some clients against others. The firm is accused of not having outlined adequate information to all parties involved in the so-called

Abacus deal, while taking its own position against the losing side of the deal.

Goldman has refuted the charges, saying that it lost money on Abacus, too. It pledges to defend itself and its

reputation in court. But the deal has come under heightened scrutiny, with fears that some clients may flee the firm because of negative publicity and questions that have been raised about Goldman's trustworthiness.

American International Group

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-- perhaps Goldman's highest-profile client -- has reportedly cut some ties with the firm. Certain entities in Europe, where the losing Abacus counterparties were based, have threatened to do the same.

More broadly, though, the Abacus situation also called into question the duties of a bank to a client when its own interests are at stake -- particularly on Wall Street. Goldman executives came under fire during congressional hearings on the topic, and the

Securities and Exchange Commission

is reportedly investigating other firms' practices as well.

Though Wells Fargo's presence on Wall Street doesn't hold a candle to Goldman's, Atkins strived to place Wells Fargo above the fray during an investor conference on Thursday.

"We tend to only take those risks we need to take on behalf of our customers, not against our customers," Atkins said. "And we tend not to take transactional risks unrelated to fulfilling a customer need. We have a saying at the company that, if we keep our customers out of harm's way we will tend to keep the company out of harm's way."

-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York