(Adds response from shareholder activist)
By Tina Bellon
NEW YORK, March 15 (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co’s board of directors awarded Chief Executive Timothy Sloan $12.8 million for his work last year, a 17 percent increase, despite scrapping executive bonuses in light of an accounts scandal that rocked the bank last year, according to a proxy filing on Wednesday.
Sloan was CEO for only a few months in 2016. He took over after his predecessor, John Stumpf, resigned in light of revelations that thousands of Wells Fargo employees had opened perhaps millions of unauthorized customer accounts.
Sloan, 56, had been president and chief operating officer until October. Though his promotion came with a higher base salary and more long-term stock awards, his total package was less than the $19.3 million Stumpf received for 2015.
Finance chief John Shrewsberry and David Carroll, who heads wealth and investment management, also received bigger pay packages for 2016 despite the absence of bonuses.
Wells Fargo reached a $185 million settlement with regulators in September over creating what it then said could be as many as 2.1 million accounts in customers’ names without their permission. The third-largest U.S. bank has since encountered more government probes and lawsuits, and its board recently said an internal review may uncover more problematic accounts.
The board plans to release its findings ahead of Wells Fargo’s annual meeting on April 26, where shareholders will vote on matters in the proxy, including the election of directors, executive pay and shareholder proposals.
This year’s proxy includes a proposal submitted by a group of mostly religious-affiliated activist investors who want the board to produce a report into the root causes of the sales scandal. Employees have said they were pressured by supervisors to hit aggressive sales targets that were ultimately put in place by top management.
Shareholders also submitted proposals urging the bank to consider divesting businesses, prepare a report on the gap between what it pays men and women and adopt a policy on the rights of indigenous people in light of its involvement in financing the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.
Wells Fargo’s board urged shareholders to reject the shareholder proposals. Responding to the call for the root cause report, the proxy stated that the Wells Fargo board believes the topics that would be covered are already being addressed by other reviews underway.
A representative of the lead filer of the proposal, Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, said via e-mail the group was “disappointed” by the bank’s opposition since the resolution seeks information that would “set the course for real systemic change in culture, ethics, values and financial sustainability” at the bank.
“We believe that we will get a strong YES vote from shareholders,” Nash wrote.
Reporting by Tina Bellon and Ross Kerber; Editing by Bernard Orr and Himani Sarkar