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Sequoia Fund Thoughts On Wells Fargo $WFC

Sequoia Fund 3Q investor letter thoughts on Wells Fargo: 

We did not add to or reduce our 2% position in Wells Fargo during the quarter, but recent events prompt us to share our thoughts on the bank with you. News emerged in September that since 2011, Wells Fargo employees had created up to 2.1 million sham customer accounts in order to meet aggressive sales quotas set by bank management.

While this behavior caused the bank to fire some 5,300 employees over a period of five years, the bank was distressingly slow to change the incentives that prompted this bad behavior. We believe that Wells management has damaged the bond of trust the bank had built with its customers, and that senior executives should be held accountable for the practices their policies engendered. That said, it is important to note that only about 5% of the unauthorized accounts had fees associated with them—and that these fees came to about $2.6 million in total.

Wells Fargo is an enormous enterprise, with 93 million customer accounts and $22.4 billion of net income in the past year. The sham accounts did not make money for Wells, and more likely cost it money as the bank paid bonuses to employees who opened inactive accounts. Wells has suffered deep reputational damage and we will keep a watchful eye on the remedies proposed by management, but we believe Wells remains an attractive franchise with a low valuation.