(Adds details on Strother's career and sales scandal)
By Dan Freed
Nov 30 James Strother, Wells Fargo & Co's
general counsel, who had originally planned to retire at
year-end, will stay on indefinitely in the position to deal with
fallout from the bank's sales scandal, according to a bank
"In light of recent events the decision was made to have Jim
Strother remain with the company and continue to serve as our
general counsel," said Peter Gilchrist, a Wells Fargo spokesman.
The decision was made by the bank's board of directors and a
search is under way for Strother's replacement, Gilchrist said.
An email and call to Strother were not returned.
The scandal pertains to Wells Fargo opening as many as 2
million accounts in customers' names without their permission.
The bank is facing lawsuits from former employees and customers,
as well as increased regulatory scrutiny.
Strother became the San Francisco-based bank's top lawyer in
2003, and sat behind then-CEO John Stumpf at a bruising
congressional hearing about the scandal in September. He has
been at Wells Fargo and its predecessor, Norwest Corporation,
Strother was deeply involved in Wells Fargo's acquisition of
Wachovia during the 2008 financial crisis. He also keeps a close
eye on compliance issues, something that is not always a general
Wells Fargo reached a $190 million regulatory settlement
over the phony accounts in September, and parted ways with
Stumpf the following month.
It is now working to answer questions from politicians and
regulators, replace a flawed compensation system that
incentivized employees to open phantom accounts, and repair its
reputation among customers, including municipalities that have
cut business ties.
Because he turned 65 this year, Strother would ordinarily be
required to retire at the end of the year, according to an
internal policy at Wells Fargo affecting members of the bank's
However, the bank occasionally makes exceptions to this rule
in extraordinary situations. During the financial crisis,
then-Chairman Dick Kovacevich postponed his retirement by
slightly more than a year.
(Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; editing by Gary Grosse and