Restore Public Trust Urges Incoming House Financial Services Chair to Examine Role of Secretary Chao as Board Member of Wells Fargo

New Report from RPT details instances where Wells Fargo took advantage of its customers during Chao’s time on board

WASHINGTON — After incoming Chair of the House Financial Services Committee Rep. Maxine Waters announced that she will investigate the predatory and corrupt actions of Wells Fargo in the 116th Congress, government accountability group Restore Public Trust urged Waters to examine the role of Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao during her time as a Director on the Wells Fargo Board.

“Wells Fargo bilked millions of Americans, including veterans and students, while Secretary Chao served on their board, but her role with the company has yet to be properly scrutinized,” said Caroline Ciccone, Executive Director of Restore Public Trust. “Secretary Chao should be required to explain to the American people her role in Wells Fargo’s numerous scandals. How can we trust her now as a cabinet secretary to do what is best for the American people when so many American families have already suffered under her watch?  Secretary Chao must explain to the House Financial Services Committee how scandal after scandal unfolded at Wells Fargo while she was paid millions of dollars by the bank to oversee its business.  Was she asleep at the wheel, or did she willfully let these predatory activities occur?  Americans deserve to know.”

Along with the letter, Restore Public Trust today issued a report that details the numerous instances where Wells Fargo took advantage of its customers through fraudulent schemes during Secretary Chao’s time on the Board from her appointment to the board in 2011 to her resignation in 2017. During her tenure on Wells Fargo’s Corporate Responsibility Committee, Credit Committee, and Finance Committee, Secretary Chao and other members of leadership there were asleep at the wheel while the company preyed on vulnerable customers.

During Secretary Chao’s tenure on the Wells Fargo board:

  • Wells Fargo continued creating fake accounts without consumer knowledge or approval (with an estimated 3.5 million accounts eventually being opened); they targeted first-time banking customers, non-English speakers, and elderly customers with memory problems.
  • U.S. military servicemembers’ cars were improperly repossessed (specifically while Chao oversaw lending policies).
  • The board ignored employee whistleblowers for years and delayed changing the sales goals they knew were leading to fraud.

New research from Restore Public Trust shows ex-Director Chao made over $2.2 million from Wells Fargo with an additional estimated total payout of $1 to $5 million in continued benefits through 2021. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo’s victims are still trying to recover their lost income.

Letter to Incoming Chair Waters

Research Report


Restore Public Trust is a non-partisan public interest group focused on exposing corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels of government. We strive to educate the public and policymakers on these important issues. We are a critical resource for elected officials investigating public corruption; Americans looking for more information about what their government is or isn’t doing to advocate on their behalf; and journalists examining the alleged malfeasance of government officials.

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