Wells Fargo CEO defends pay; calls Senator Warren's criticism 'inappropriate'

DETROIT (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co WFC.N Chief Executive Tim Sloan on Thursday defended a 35 percent gain in his latest compensation package, while describing comments last year by Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had called for his ouster, as "inappropriate."

FILE PHOTO - Wells Fargo & Company CEO and President Tim Sloan testifies before the Senate Banking Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

The third-largest U.S. lender has been battling a sales practices scandal that erupted in September 2016 with the revelation employees had opened potentially millions of phony accounts in customers’ names.

“It’s not surprising I disagree with almost everything Elizabeth Warren says. Most of her comments are both ill-informed and inappropriate,” Sloan told reporters after speaking to the Detroit Economic Club.

Warren, long a consumer advocate, in October told Sloan she did not believe the bank would be able to change with him in charge, in remarks during his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.

Warren’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sloan’s remarks.

Sloan, who took over when former CEO John Stumpf abruptly departed in October 2016, said in January that Wells Fargo was not certain it had fully uncovered and fixed all scandal-related issues.

Internal reviews and regulatory probes have revealed problems in other areas beyond the initial unauthorized accounts, including mortgage lending and auto insurance.

Earlier this month Wells Fargo said it was examining its wealth and investment management business for possible issues.

In the question-and-answer session with reporters, Sloan noted that the increase in his 2017 compensation from a year earlier in part reflected that he had been in the role for an entire year.

Regulatory filings on Wednesday showed Sloan’s pay rose 35 percent from the previous year, even though he had opted out of an annual incentive plan.

“I went to the board and said that I don’t believe that it would be appropriate if I were paid a bonus for the year because we haven’t made enough progress in terms of advancing,” he said on Thursday.

He also said that the bank’s scandal-related issues have not resulted in any net loss of retail customers.

“We’ve had certain customers on the retail side that have left, but the net number of customers during this entire period continues to grow,” he said.

The Federal Reserve in February imposed a cap on the lender’s balance sheet until it improves governance, and Wells pledged a refresh of its board.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that U.S. regulators are preparing to sanction the bank for receiving commissions on auto insurance policies it helped force on drivers.

Reporting by Steve Friess in Detroit; Writing by Meredith Mazzilli; Editing by Dan Grebler