Who’s Behind the Financial Meltdown?

Published — May 6, 2009 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

No. 8 of The Subprime 25: Wells Fargo Financial/Wells Fargo & Co.


Total high-interest loans 2005-2007:

At least $51.8 billion

Federal bailout money received:

Wells Fargo & Co. received $25 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program for purchase of preferred stock.

Company overview

  • Status: ACTIVE
  • History: Originally founded in 1852 as a banking and delivery company serving the western United States, Wells Fargo’s banking division separated in 1905 and expanded into a national financial institution. In 1998, Wells Fargo merged with Norwest Corp. Norwest would maintain control, but the new institution took the Wells Fargo name and moved to San Francisco. The Norwest merger included a modest subprime business within Norwest, which became Wells Fargo Financial in 2000. Wells Fargo remains one of the nation’s more successful banks, though it posted its first quarterly loss since 2001 in the fourth quarter of 2008. Wells Fargo stopped originating loans with initial two-year teaser rates in July 2007.
  • Parent/subsidiary companies: Wells Fargo Financial, Inc. of Des Moines, Iowa, is the subprime lending division of Wells Fargo & Co.
  • CEO: President/CEO (Wells Fargo & Co.): John G. Stumpf, CEO (still in that position as of May 2009) since June 2007; he took over from longtime chairman and CEO Richard Kovacevich.
    • Most recent salary: Stumpf’s 2008 salary, $878,920; $13,782,433 in total compensation. Kovacevich’s 2006 salary (as CEO): $995,000; $29,846,883 in total compensation.
  • Location: San Francisco
  • Year founded: 1852
  • Backers: Wells Fargo & Co.

Lobbying overview

  • Lobbying: 1999-2008: Wells Fargo reported $12,240,740 in lobbying expenditures. **
  • Total Contributions: At least $5,450,427 *
  • Top Recipients:
    1. National Republican Congressional Committee $230,771
    2. Barack Obama $201,030
    3. National Republican Senatorial Committee $161,320
    4. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee $130,750
    5. Senator Hillary Clinton, D-New York $121,989

** Lobbying totals calculated by the Center for Public Integrity using data from the Senate Office of Public Records.

* Contribution grand total includes employee and soft money contributions from the lender and its subsidiaries. Top recipient totals include employee and political action committee contributions. Data provided by CQ Money Line, analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

Read more in Inequality, Opportunity and Poverty

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