The former Securities and Exchange Commission chief who helped Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) review its board of directors after a harsh rebuke from shareholders said the lender has taken "strong actions" to improve its governance.
Mary Jo White, who led the SEC for four years prior to her departure following U.S. President Donald Trump's election in November, said the bank has a "good, conscientious and knowledgeable board" that has "learned and listened carefully" to investors after scandals involving fake accounts and unneeded car insurance.
San Francisco-based Wells Fargo hired White, 69, to assist in the board's annual self-assessment conducted earlier in the year, amid calls for improved oversight from many investors and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who has advocated for stricter banking regulations.
On Tuesday, the company said Chairman Stephen Sanger, 71, would step down at the end of the year and be replaced by Elizabeth "Betsy" Duke, a former Federal Reserve governor who previously served as an executive at several banks in the southeastern U.S. that now form part of Wells Fargo's sprawling branch network. Two directors who have served on the board since the 1990s, Cynthia Milligan and Sue Swenson, will retire, according to a company statement.
"They've both been on the board for quite some time," said White, now a partner at the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York. "It's not criticism of them. It's really just facilitating refreshment of the directors."