Wells Fargo chair: Shareholders 'benefited greatly' from ex-CEO Stumpf's leadership

Key Points
  • "A $69 million clawback is a remarkable show of accountability," says Chairman Stephen Sanger in live interview with CNBC.
  • Says ex-CEO Stumph "didn't press hard enough" on community banking chief Carrie Tolstedt.
  • He notes that Stumph increased bank's market cap by $100 million during his tenure.
Wells Fargo board takes further action against Stumpf and Tolstedt

Wells Fargo's last CEO may have mishandled the cross-selling scandal, but investors did well otherwise during his tenure, the company's chairman, Stephen Sanger, told CNBC.

John Stumpf was forced to return a total of $69 million in salary after revelations that the bank had created 2 million fake accounts for customers without their knowledge, partly under his watch.

However, that was not even a quarter of the total $286 million in compensation he acquired during the 2011-2016 period that encompassed the time during which the scandal emerged publicly.

In a live interview, Sanger pointed out that the total amount was still the greatest "clawback" in financial services history.

"During his nine years as CEO, the market cap of Wells Fargo grew by $100 billion. That's almost double," he said. "The shareholders benefited greatly from John's leadership."

Stephen Sanger, Wells Fargo Chairman
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

"A $69 million clawback is a remarkable show of accountability for someone who generated that much of an increase in market capitalization," Sanger added.

The clawbacks were just part of the fallout from the scandal that resulted from aggressive sales practices at Wells Fargo that pushed employees into signing up customers for multiple products. Sales quotas have since been abandoned.

In addition to Stumpf, community bank chief Carrie Tolstedt also has come under fire. A board-commissioned report obtained by CNBC details the various factors that led to the scandal.

Sanger said that the community bank exerted "excessive sales pressure" on employees and that Tolstedt was "responsible for all that." Stumpf "didn't press hard enough on Carrie" after finding that there was a problem with the sales goals and the behavior they inspired.

However, he said that new CEO Tim Sloan has done a good job of changing the corporate culture through multiple reforms that make accountability more centralized.

"I think we've addressed the main core issue of structure that led to the problem," Sanger said.