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All Wells Fargo director nominees elected, some with scant support

All Wells Fargo Co. board members were reelected Tuesday at the company’s annual meeting, though with markedly lower support than in previous years.

For his part, Sanger acknowledged that Wells Fargo shareholders “have sent the entire board a message of dissatisfaction” with their votes. But all the proposed Wells Fargo directors were elected, though one got barely 53 percent of shareholders votes.

In a statement Friday, CalSTRS, which owns almost 10 million Wells Fargo shares, said it had voted against nine board members, including Sanger.

Some votes were still coming in Tuesday morning, meaning vote tallies could still shift, the person familiar with the matter said.

The shareholder meeting, at a golf resort in Jacksonville, Florida, was held about 2,800 miles from Wells Fargo’s headquarters in San Francisco.

While the re-election of directors, if confirmed, will be a relief for the bank, the likelihood that at least some board members will receive below 60% of votes cast is concerning. Usually, incumbent board members receive a much higher percentage of votes.

Bruce Marks of NACA, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, said he wanted to hear from the directors whether they were “complicit and incompetent” in the scandal.

Wells Fargo’s board is on the hot seat after the bank reached a $185 million settlement in September over allegations that its employees potentially created more than 2 million unauthorized customer accounts to meet aggressive sales goals.

“The expansion of this agreement is another important step to make things right for our customers”, said Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo president and CEO. There was a brief recess after one shareholder made what Sanger called a “physical approach” toward a board member and was removed. For instance, Stephen Sanger, the former General Mills CEO who became Wells Fargo’s chairman last fall, has been a director since 2003.

Sanger said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch”, however, that shareholders weren’t sending a message to any particular director.

Wells Fargo has been out of order for years, and your response is, ‘Well, we’re sorry”, Marks yelled.

When he refused to sit down and stop speaking, or to leave on his own, Sanger adjourned the meeting to allow security personnel, including St. Johns County Sheriffs officers, to remove him.

The big item to watch Tuesday will be whether Wells Fargo shareholders oust the board. Citing a need to “refresh” the bank’s board, Rees said he would cast the group’s 1.6 million shares against the nominees.

“We know that these issues are not what you expect of us”, said Sanger, who apologized and outlined the bank’s recent overhaul of its sales practices, employee compensation system, and other reforms prompted by the scandal. All four candidates received at least 98 percent of shareholder votes in 2016.

In addition to the day of action, Forgo Wells is circulating a petition that, Bhatti explained, “calls on the bank to divest from Dakota Access Pipeline, to stop investing in private prisons and immigration detention centers, to stop funding the payday lending industry, to stop its tremendous lobbying that it’s doing to try to influence our politics, to stop its predatory foreclosure practices, and a number of other demands that we raise”.

The Wells Fargo board conducted its own investigation of the scandal and in a report this month placed the blame squarely on two former executives: former community banking head Carrie Tolstedt and former CEO Stumpf.

Several hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently bought and sold shares of WFC.

Another shareholder advisory firm, Glass Lewis, recommended voting against Baker, Dean, Hernandez and Milligan, members of the bank’s corporate responsibility committee, which is charged with overseeing reputation risk and customer complaints.

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