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Wells Fargo Atlanta HQ.

The Wells Fargo scandal stands as a poignant example of what can happen when company leadership sets the wrong kinds of incentives for employees. It’s such a great example of mis-alignment because, at some level, we all understand and have significant exposure to the retail banking system. Even if you are not a Wells Fargo customer, it’s easy to empathize with them and see how the corporate ship veered off course. But the lesson is not new or novel. History is replete with examples of misguided corporate incentives undermining culture—from the Dutch East India Co. to Enron—second verse, same as the first. Board oversight is a familiar theme. Like Enron, we have a special report issued in 2017 to figure out why it all went wrong for Wells Fargo. Last week, the company added a Business Standards Report to the narrative styled, “Learning from the past, transforming for the future.”

 

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