By Andrew Ackerman 

WASHINGTON -- A top banking regulator told lawmakers Wednesday his agency plans to keep close tabs on Wells Fargo & Co. and will vet the next chief executive at the lender.

Comptroller of the Currency Joseph Otting, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, said he remains disappointed with Wells Fargo over consumer abuses and management problems that have plagued the bank for years.

Wells Fargo's former chief executive Timothy Sloan resigned in late March, two weeks after an appearance before a House committee that drew public criticism from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Reserve, another regulator that oversees the bank.

Wells Fargo general counsel C. Allen Parker is serving as interim CEO while the bank looks for an outsider to run the firm on a permanent basis.

Wednesday's hearing turned testy when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) -- a presidential candidate -- asked Mr. Otting to release the results of his agency's review of the bank's next chief executive, saying the OCC "blew it" on a previous executive search. She said the OCC should be transparent about its future decision making.

Mr. Otting declined to do so, adding "no one has been more tougher on Wells Fargo than myself." He also said the review was confidential between the regulator and the bank.

"You mean at the OCC? That's a low bar," Sen. Warren responded.

"I would disagree with that. I find that insulting, that you would make that comment," Mr. Otting said.

"Good!" Sen. Warren responded.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to comment.

Wells Fargo's problems have grown since a 2016 sales scandal erupted and led to the ouster of Mr. Sloan's predecessor, John Stumpf. By the time Mr. Sloan took his seat before the House Financial Services Committee in March, the lender was on the outs with Washington.

Problems had emerged across the bank's other businesses, setting off several government investigations. The OCC was debating the rare step of forcing changes to Wells Fargo's senior management or board, The Wall Street Journal has reported. And the Fed was showing no sign it was ready to lift an unprecedented cap on the bank's growth put in place a year earlier.

Under the terms of an April 2018 settlement, Wells Fargo must clear changes to senior management in advance with the OCC.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 15, 2019 19:54 ET (23:54 GMT)

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