Wells Fargo has found itself in the midst of yet another PR fire — a minor flareup compared to last year’s phony accounts scandal, but a cringeworthy development nevertheless.
On Monday, the bank disclosed that earlier this month the bank had “inadvertently” released a trove of confidential data about at least 50,000 of its wealthiest clients in an email exchange between lawyers. Approximately 1.4 gigabytes of files — spreadsheets, names, Social Security numbers — and financial details including the size of their investment portfolios, and the fees the bank charged them.
“Wells Fargo is taking swift legal action to ensure client data, which was inadvertently released to a lawyer as the result of a subpoena, is returned immediately,” the bank said in a statement shared with Tearsheet on Tuesday. “Additionally, Wells Fargo is seeking to prohibit the data from being disseminated. We take the security and privacy of our customers’ information very seriously. We are continuing to thoroughly investigate this matter and will take all appropriate steps based upon the outcome of our investigation.”
It’s entirely possible for companies to recover from reputational incidents — just look at BP and AIG. What makes bank’s scandal so much worse is the succession of problems and inconsistencies between what they’re marketing and how they’re running the business, said Michael Rubin, chair of the crisis practice at Levick.
“These things are cumulative and can damage the brand,” he said. “It seems to be part of a pattern of a lack of oversight, accountability, management and controls. It’s different from what they dealt with last year but in many ways it conveys the same poor management and oversight.”
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