March 17, 2017 / 6:44 PM / in 8 months

House Democrat seeks interviews with Wells Fargo executives

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Democrat on a key House of Representatives committee has demanded a chance to interview executives of Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), which has been embroiled in a scandal over fake accounts, because she said Republicans already had that opportunity in December.

FILE PHOTO - A Wells Fargo branch is seen in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, U.S. on February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

In a letter to the bank on Friday, House Financial Services ranking member Maxine Waters of California said she wants to ask Chief Executive Timothy Sloan and other senior Wells Fargo officials questions about the scandal.

“I reiterate my request that Wells Fargo provide Democratic Committee staff the same opportunity it provided to Republican Committee staff to meet with the aforementioned executives for unrecorded interviews,” Waters wrote.

“Scheduling these interviews would be a small step in reassuring me and my staff that Wells Fargo is sincere when it says it wants to ‘make things right’ for its customers.”

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the bank is committed to “responding appropriately” to committee requests. “We have fully cooperated with the House Financial Services Committee’s investigation, including by voluntarily participating in the September 2016 hearing, producing over 140,000 pages of documents, answering more than 50 written and numerous oral questions, and making our most senior leadership available for interviews,” the spokeswoman said.

Last September, Wells Fargo paid $190 million to settle with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and other regulators after its staff opened as many as 2.1 million checking, savings and credit card accounts without customer consent.

The scandal prompted then-CEO John Stumpf to resign, and the bank still faces investigations by multiple states, a parallel criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department and a civil probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission into whether it misled investors and wrongfully retaliated against whistleblowers.

Wells Fargo has said it is focused on providing the accountability and oversight its customers deserve.

Waters, as a member of the minority political party in Congress, cannot subpoena the Wells Fargo executives without consent from the committee’s Republican majority.

In her letter, she said Sloan, along with Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry, General Counsel James Strother and Chief Risk Officer Michael Loughlin, participated in unrecorded interviews with Republican committee staffers between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7, 2016.

A spokesman for House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling said the Republican staffers briefed the minority member staffers on the interviews, and shared more than 100,000 pages of records gathered for the panel’s investigation into the matter.

Editing by Matthew Lewis

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