September 13, 2016 / 3:43 PM / 3 years ago

U.S. Congress dives into Wells Fargo case, panel to hold hearing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wells Fargo’s (WFC.N) practices of putting customers into fake accounts, which last week led the U.S. government to fine it $190 million, took center stage in Congress on Tuesday with staff members for Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee set to meet with representatives of the bank.

A Wells Fargo bank logo is pictured on a building in North Miami, Florida March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Torrie Matous, spokeswoman for the committee’s chairman, Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said staff had “been arranging briefings and collecting information from both Wells Fargo and the regulators” to prepare for a Sept. 20 hearing. The committee has been finalizing details for that hearing.

Five Democrats on the committee, including Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, had pressed for an investigation into the case that would include testimony from Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer John Stumpf and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray.

The CFPB said Cordray has not been invited to testify.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the bank does not comment on private meetings with Congressional offices and declined to comment on who would attend next week’s hearing.

The CFPB, which was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, will receive $100 million of the total penalties, the largest fine levied by the agency.

Altogether, Wells Fargo opened more than 2 million deposit and credit card accounts that may not have been authorized, the CFPB said in announcing the penalties on Sept. 8.

Democrats on the U.S. House Financial Services Committee also called for an investigation.

“Somebody has to be punished for this kind of behavior,” said Representative Al Green of Texas. “We have asked, the ranking member and I, that this committee investigate this.”

Green, the most senior Democrat on the committee’s investigations subcommittee, was referring to Maxine Waters of California, the highest ranking Democrat on the full committee. He spoke at a hearing Tuesday on a bill overhauling Dodd-Frank, where other Democrats cited the Wells case as a reason to maintain the current law.

On Monday, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate’s committee on aging wrote to Cordray asking about victims in the case and whether his agency had worked with others to pursue criminal or civil charges.

“We have concerns about the impact this activity has had on our nation’s senior population, especially those who do not conduct their financial business on the Internet,” wrote Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat.

Additional reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Grant McCool

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