Photo: Cliff Owen/AP
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 19, 2016
Contact: Daniel Stevens, email@example.com, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) sent a letter to Sen. Robert P. Corker (R-TN) asking him to recuse himself from the hearing scheduled by the Senate Banking Committee for Tuesday September 20. Democrats on the committee had asked its chair, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), to schedule the hearing, explaining that the recent announcement by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that Wells Fargo opened unauthorized accounts and submitted fraudulent credit card applications in a duplicitous attempt to boost sales figures warrants congressional oversight. Sen. Corker has significant financial ties to Wells Fargo.
CfA Executive Director Anne Weismann stated, “While many senators on both sides of the aisle have pilloried Wells Fargo for its reprehensible treatment of consumers, Sen. Corker’s comments have been tepid. Perhaps this is because of his long financial relationship with the bank.”
In 2014, Sen. Corker invested in a 650,000-square foot shopping center development in Mobile, Alabama called McGowin Park, a joint venture by a Chicago-based developer, and the Hutton Company, a construction company based in Chattanooga owned by Karen Hutton a former executive of CBL & Associates. Six days after making that investment, McGowin Park disclosed it had secured a loan from Wells Fargo to finance the development, which is projected to generate $200 million in annual revenues. The value of Sen. Corker’s stake likely increased after the announcement.
In addition, Wells Fargo is also a major lender to CBL & Associates, a Chattanooga real estate investment trust with which Sen. Corker has had a well-documented long and close relationship. Sen. Corker once worked with CBL, and its executives have been some of his chief supporters. Sen. Corker also has traded heavily and to significant profit in CBL’s stock. Last fall, CfA asked the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice to investigate whether Sen. Corker had engaged in insider trading. News reports have indicated such an investigation is ongoing.
CBL executives have regularly referred to their firm’s special relationship with Wells Fargo, referring to it as the company’s “lead bank” and noting that it helped prop up the firm during the 2008 financial crisis.
Another senator with ties to the bank is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). His wife, Elaine Chao, sits on Wells Fargo’s board of directors.
Ms. Weismann continued, “The CFPB, which – unlike Congress – is not beholden to the financial industry, doesn’t shy away from holding the big banks accountable for their misdeeds. Confronted with clear evidence of massive fraud, if Sen. Corker continues to give Wells Fargo a pass, reasonable consumers should ask why.”
CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.