Wells Fargo overhauls lawmaking and policy arm

(Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co WFC.N is making several changes to its government relations and public policy unit in what its new leader said was a response to its steady growth since the financial crisis.

A Wells Fargo logo is seen in New York City, U.S. January 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

The bank has had a difficult seven months since a sales scandal that severely damaged its reputation and led to the departure of then-Chairman and CEO John Stumpf in October. Stumpf’s sudden retirement came after he was slammed by U.S. lawmakers.

Still, David Moskowitz, the newly-promoted head of the lobbying and policy unit, said the overhaul was not a response to the scandal, nor to the bank’s failure of a “living will” test administered by federal regulators that led to the bank’s decision to temporarily halt the growth of its balance sheet.

“This is not a reaction to all the events of the last year,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Instead, he said the bank’s decision was about having a more coordinated public policy approach, rather than each business unit operating somewhat independently. While that siloed structure was one of the criticisms mentioned in an investigative report released by the Board of Directors, Moskowitz said the new structure was not a response to the report.

“I don’t think there had been duplication of effort,” he said. “I need to integrate these things better into the business priorities of the company, to the needs of its customers, to help us rebuild trust and build the better bank that we’re going to work for.”

The new unit will bring together several responsibilities that had been in different areas of the bank, including federal, regulatory, state and local government relations, political programs, external relations and public policy. Moskowitz said he would hire more people for the unit, though he would not yet say how many.

When Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia at the start of 2009, it more than doubled its size and became the fourth largest U.S. bank. It eventually passed Citigroup and became the third largest. Following the Wachovia acquisition, its government relations team had two people. That number has since grown to six.

Moskowitz, executive vice president and general counsel, most recently led the consumer lending and corporate regulatory division of the Wells Fargo law department. He will report to Hope Hardison, the bank’s chief administrative officer.

The outgoing head of government and community relations, Jon Campbell, will stay at the bank in a modified role.

Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay