Wells ad slams press accounts on junkets as "nonsense"

A sign marks the entrance to Wells Fargo bank in Dallas, Texas October 9, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After canceling employee outings last week in the face of public indignation over lavish ways on Wall Street, Wells Fargo & Co. went on the offensive in a full-age advertisement in Sunday’s New York Times.

“Okay, time out. Something doesn’t feel right,” the ad begins, before attacking “media stories” for creating the mistaken impression that every employee recognition event is a “junket, a boondoggle, a waste, or that it’s for highly paid executives. Nonsense!”

The ad does acknowledge that all employers, but especially those of publicly traded companies receiving support from the U.S. government, should reexamine how much they spend on recognition events.

Wells canceled its major events, such as trips, for 2009, and has received $25 billion from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

But the cancellation of those events hurts those Wells Fargo employees who are “most deserving of recognition,” such as tellers, personal bankers, operations clerks and credit analysts, the ad says.

The ad attempts to compensate those employees for the thanks they will not receive this year at their canceled events, said Wells spokeswoman Julia Tunis Bernard.

“This advertisement was a way to publicly acknowledge their accomplishments so that all of our stakeholders know how much we value their accomplishments,” she said.

In January, Wells Fargo reported a fourth-quarter loss of $2.55 billion, or 79 cents per share, compared with a profit of $1.36 billion, or 41 cents, a year earlier. The results exclude the bank’s acquisition of Wachovia Corp.

Wells shares closed at $19.14 on Friday, 55 percent off their September high.

Reporting by Helen Chernikoff; Editing by Bernard Orr