Why Did Wells Fargo's CFO Really Retire?

by Derek Loosvelt | February 10, 2011

That's what everyone wants to know following the abrupt departure of long-time chief financial officer Howard Atkins.

Atkins, who is said to potentially earn $22 million upon his supposed "retirement," left the firm shortly after the NYSE bell this past Tuesday.

In a press release, Wells Fargo noted that Atkins will be taking an unpaid leave and then retiring, and that, effective immediately, the firm's chief administrative officer, Timothy Sloan, would succeed him. No other specifics were given about Atkins departure, nor were any statements of thanks for his service (10 years to the firm) noted in the release, as is commonly done in situations like these.

The mysterious retirement was not looked upon favorably by investors, who drive down Wells Fargo's stock price by $6 billion at one point Wednesday. The price subsequently rebounded but as of this morning had fallen 3 percent since the announcement.

In the wake of Atkins' leaving, some analysts, contrary to what Wells Fargo itself has noted, have conjectured that the CFO's departure points to some barbecued books coming down the pipeline; others to simply poor PR practices. (I would wager heavily on the former.)

In any case, it's becoming clear that, given JPMorgan's suspect connection to Bernie "Beelzebub" Madoff and now something at least partially rotten in San Francisco (Wells Fargo's world headquarters), no big banks' hands are clean.

(WSJ)

Filed Under: Finance


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