Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf testifies before the Senate Banking Committee, addressing the scandal relating to the bank's opening of fake bank accounts without customer knowledge, on Tuesday, September 20, 2016. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf testifies before the Senate Banking Committee, addressing the scandal relating to the bank’s opening of fake bank accounts without customer knowledge, on Tuesday, September 20, 2016. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM (Diego M. Radzinschi)

As law enforcement agencies and private plaintiffs attorneys circle Wells Fargo & Co. in the wake of its sham accounts scandal, the bank and its executives have deployed a legion of defense attorneys to limit the legal fallout.

Last month, the company announced in securities filings that it had set aside at least $1.7 billion to fend off the wave of litigation. Judging from the roster of counsel it has tapped so far, it’s already eating into that war chest. The bank and its executives have called on at least a dozen corporate Wall Street firms and premier white-collar boutiques, including Shearman & Sterling; Munger, Tolles & Olson; Williams & Connolly; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Goodwin Procter.

Wells Fargo has brought on a Sidley Austin team led by San Francisco partner David Anderson to handle the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Anderson, who served as the No. 2 prosecutor in the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office during the George W. Bush administration, has the thorny task of navigating the federal investigation, with Wells Fargo already facing a $100 million fine from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the widespread practice at the bank of opening unauthorized accounts and credit cards to meet sales quotas.

Wells Fargo executives are also lawyering up. Carrie Tolstedt, who oversaw the unit at the center of the scandal, has made perhaps the most prominent hire, leaning on a team at Washington-based Williams & Connolly that includes senior partner Brendan Sullivan Jr. Sullivan, widely regarded as one of the deans of the white-collar defense bar, represented Oliver North during the congressional hearings into the Iran-Contra affair and former Sen. Ted Stevens during his political corruption trial.

Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who drew fire before a Senate hearing on the accounts scandal this fall prior to stepping down, is being represented in the DOJ probe by a team from Goodwin Procter that includes Silicon Valley partner Grant Fondo, a former federal prosecutor in the Northern District of California. Current CEO Timothy Sloan is represented by San Francisco white-collar boutique Clarence Dyer & Cohen. A team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, including San Francisco partner Walter Brown, is representing the company’s general counsel, James Strother, who recently announced that he would postpone his retirement, planned for the end of the year.

Other firms representing individual executives include Keker & Van Nest, Ramsey & Ehrlich, Swanson & McNamara, and Arguedas, Cassman & Headley.

Meanwhile, the government has also called on a wide network of attorneys to investigate whether the bank or its executives have criminal liability for the opening of fake accounts. The federal prosecutors working on the investigation include assistant U.S. attorneys Adam Reeves and Benjamin Kingsley from the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco, Kelli Ferry and Daniel Ryan from the office in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lawyers from the Civil Division at Main Justice in Washington.

Of the San Francisco group, Reeves led a team that won a jury conviction in a criminal fraud trial against a former executive at United Commercial Bank last year. Ryan helped extract a $16.65 billion settlement from Bank of America related to its mortgage-backed securities practices. In addition to the DOJ, the company also faces probes from the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general, it has said.

The bank also faces a wave of class action investor lawsuits. In state court in San Francisco, where Wells Fargo is headquartered, a judge in November coordinated a half-dozen derivative suits filed against its current and former executives. Brendan Cullen of Sullivan & Cromwell represents the bank. Based in Palo Alto, Cullen has a track record of defending big financial institutions in shareholder litigation, including a suit against UBS AG over the collapse of Enron that was dismissed in August.

Former CEO Stumpf is being defended in the derivative suits by Goodwin’s Fondo and Richard Strassberg, co-chair of the firm’s securities and white-collar defense practice group and former chief of the major crimes unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Tolstedt is being represented in the derivative suit by Williams & Connolly’s Enu Mainigi.

Cullen also represents Wells Fargo in a slew of securities fraud suits in federal court in San Francisco, along with Christopher Viapiano, based in Sullivan & Cromwell’s Washington office. That litigation is just getting underway, with plaintiffs firms vying for leadership of the consolidated cases.

Wells Fargo has faced labor suits for years from bank employees who were allegedly fired because they couldn’t meet aggressive sales goals. In individual actions, it has often turned to Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton. But the bank has tapped Munger Tolles for its defense in two whistle-blower class actions brought more recently under Dodd-Frank and other statutes by employees who say that they were terminated for reporting the opening of fake accounts.

Munger Tolles hasn’t formally entered an appearance in those cases—which are pending in state and federal court in Los Angeles. But Jonathan Delshad, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that he has been talking with Mun­ger attorneys in trying to obtain employee records. A spokeswoman for the law firm did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

Munger Tolles also has a hand in at least two consumer class actions filed on behalf of bank customers who say that they were defrauded. David Fry and Erin Cox, of the firm’s San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, have led the push to get those suits into arbitration. Motions to compel are pending in a case in federal court in Utah and another in New Jersey.

Munger Tolles’ Fry also represented Wells Fargo in its $50 million settlement with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office in September.

While the vast majority of Wells Fargo’s lawyers are dealing with potential legal threats from the outside, a subcommittee of the bank’s board is conducting its own internal investigation of the matter. Shearman & Sterling is handling the investigation for the board.

 

As law enforcement agencies and private plaintiffs attorneys circle Wells Fargo & Co. in the wake of its sham accounts scandal, the bank and its executives have deployed a legion of defense attorneys to limit the legal fallout.

Last month, the company announced in securities filings that it had set aside at least $1.7 billion to fend off the wave of litigation. Judging from the roster of counsel it has tapped so far, it’s already eating into that war chest. The bank and its executives have called on at least a dozen corporate Wall Street firms and premier white-collar boutiques, including Shearman & Sterling ; Munger, Tolles & Olson ; Williams & Connolly ; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Goodwin Procter .

Wells Fargo has brought on a Sidley Austin team led by San Francisco partner David Anderson to handle the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Anderson, who served as the No. 2 prosecutor in the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office during the George W. Bush administration, has the thorny task of navigating the federal investigation, with Wells Fargo already facing a $100 million fine from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for the widespread practice at the bank of opening unauthorized accounts and credit cards to meet sales quotas.

Wells Fargo executives are also lawyering up. Carrie Tolstedt, who oversaw the unit at the center of the scandal, has made perhaps the most prominent hire, leaning on a team at Washington-based Williams & Connolly that includes senior partner Brendan Sullivan Jr. Sullivan, widely regarded as one of the deans of the white-collar defense bar, represented Oliver North during the congressional hearings into the Iran-Contra affair and former Sen. Ted Stevens during his political corruption trial.

Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who drew fire before a Senate hearing on the accounts scandal this fall prior to stepping down, is being represented in the DOJ probe by a team from Goodwin Procter that includes Silicon Valley partner Grant Fondo, a former federal prosecutor in the Northern District of California. Current CEO Timothy Sloan is represented by San Francisco white-collar boutique Clarence Dyer & Cohen . A team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, including San Francisco partner Walter Brown, is representing the company’s general counsel, James Strother, who recently announced that he would postpone his retirement, planned for the end of the year.

Other firms representing individual executives include Keker & Van Nest , Ramsey & Ehrlich, Swanson & McNamara, and Arguedas, Cassman & Headley.

Meanwhile, the government has also called on a wide network of attorneys to investigate whether the bank or its executives have criminal liability for the opening of fake accounts. The federal prosecutors working on the investigation include assistant U.S. attorneys Adam Reeves and Benjamin Kingsley from the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco, Kelli Ferry and Daniel Ryan from the office in Charlotte, North Carolina, and lawyers from the Civil Division at Main Justice in Washington.

Of the San Francisco group, Reeves led a team that won a jury conviction in a criminal fraud trial against a former executive at United Commercial Bank last year. Ryan helped extract a $16.65 billion settlement from Bank of America related to its mortgage-backed securities practices. In addition to the DOJ, the company also faces probes from the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general, it has said.

The bank also faces a wave of class action investor lawsuits. In state court in San Francisco, where Wells Fargo is headquartered, a judge in November coordinated a half-dozen derivative suits filed against its current and former executives. Brendan Cullen of Sullivan & Cromwell represents the bank. Based in Palo Alto, Cullen has a track record of defending big financial institutions in shareholder litigation, including a suit against UBS AG over the collapse of Enron that was dismissed in August.

Former CEO Stumpf is being defended in the derivative suits by Goodwin’s Fondo and Richard Strassberg, co-chair of the firm’s securities and white-collar defense practice group and former chief of the major crimes unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York . Tolstedt is being represented in the derivative suit by Williams & Connolly ‘s Enu Mainigi.

Cullen also represents Wells Fargo in a slew of securities fraud suits in federal court in San Francisco, along with Christopher Viapiano, based in Sullivan & Cromwell ‘s Washington office. That litigation is just getting underway, with plaintiffs firms vying for leadership of the consolidated cases.

Wells Fargo has faced labor suits for years from bank employees who were allegedly fired because they couldn’t meet aggressive sales goals. In individual actions, it has often turned to Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton . But the bank has tapped Munger Tolles for its defense in two whistle-blower class actions brought more recently under Dodd-Frank and other statutes by employees who say that they were terminated for reporting the opening of fake accounts.

Munger Tolles hasn’t formally entered an appearance in those cases—which are pending in state and federal court in Los Angeles. But Jonathan Delshad, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that he has been talking with Mun­ger attorneys in trying to obtain employee records. A spokeswoman for the law firm did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

Munger Tolles also has a hand in at least two consumer class actions filed on behalf of bank customers who say that they were defrauded. David Fry and Erin Cox, of the firm’s San Francisco and Los Angeles offices, have led the push to get those suits into arbitration. Motions to compel are pending in a case in federal court in Utah and another in New Jersey.

Munger Tolles ‘ Fry also represented Wells Fargo in its $50 million settlement with the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office in September.

While the vast majority of Wells Fargo ‘s lawyers are dealing with potential legal threats from the outside, a subcommittee of the bank’s board is conducting its own internal investigation of the matter. Shearman & Sterling is handling the investigation for the board.