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Wells Fargo banker singled out for excesses had a meteoric rise
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Wells Fargo banker singled out for excesses had a meteoric rise

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Her banking career ended in scandal, but the start was straight out of the storybooks.

Carrie Tolstedt says her father ran the local bakery in Kimball, Nebraska, and she would join him on his visits to the local bank after a day's work.

Tolstedt would eventually rise to oversee thousands of front-line workers at more than 6,000 Wells Fargo branches. She would earn numerous awards and take home millions a year before a sales scandal at the bank threw those accomplishments into damaging light.

The report released Monday by the board of directors at the bank accused Tolstedt of downplaying problems at the branches, and bucking at scrutiny over fraudulent sales practices under her aegis. It recommended the bank claw back $47.3 million that she had received in stock options, on top of $19 million it had previously taken away.

Williams & Connolly, a law firm representing Tolstedt, said "we strongly disagree" with the report.

The report is a stunning rebuke for an executive who had received nothing but praise from the bank until recently. In July, when Tolstedt announced her retirement after 27 years, former Wells CEO John Stumpf, who was also caught up in the scandal, called her a "role model" for others in the industry.

Watching her father at work, Tolstedt told U.S. Banker magazine, she came to appreciate the difficulties of running a small business and the importance of constantly checking that customers are happy.

"With a bakery in a small town, you are serving your friends and neighbors every day," she told the magazine in a 2005 interview. "So you never ever want to let your customer down."

A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Tolstedt joined a Wells' predecessor bank called Norwest in 1986, rose to oversee branches in Omaha, then all of them in 39 states. One of her goals was to increase the bank's "cross sell ratio," a measure of how many different banking accounts were held by customers.

Tolstedt encouraged tellers and customer service reps to come up with their own ways of getting people to open checking accounts, credit card accounts and sign up for other products at the bank.


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