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Elizabeth Warren says "gutless" Wells Fargo CEO should resign and face criminal investigation

Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

At a Senate hearing Tuesday, a visibly angry Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasted Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf for his handling of the scandal in which the bank created millions of unauthorized accounts for its customers.

"You should resign, you should give back the money you took while this scam was going on, and you should be criminally investigated by both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission," Warren said.

Earlier this month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the five-year-old agency Warren thought of, pushed for, and helped set up — fined Wells Fargo $100 million for the scandal, the largest penalty the agency has yet issued. The bank agreed to pay an additional $85 million in fines to other government bodies as well.

The scandal involves at least 5,000 Wells Fargo employees creating unauthorized new accounts for existing customers, so they could meet strict sales quotas imposed by the bank. The (low-level) employees have been fired, but Warren argued that higher-level executives should face accountability too.

"You haven’t resigned, you haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings, you haven’t fired a single senior executive," Warren told Stumpf. "Instead, evidently your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership."

She continued: "You squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers and you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket. And when it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multimillion-dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12-an-hour employees that were just trying to meet cross-sell quotas that made you rich."

Until the scandal broke, Wells Fargo was the most valuable bank in the world by market capitalization, according to Fortune.