Wells Fargo names new top lawyer as bank wrestles with sales scandal

Wells Fargo has named Allen Parker the company’s new general counsel.
Wells Fargo has named Allen Parker the company’s new general counsel.

Wells Fargo has named a new top lawyer, filling a key position as the bank faces legal and regulatory investigations over a phony accounts scandal.

Allen Parker, 62, will join the San Francisco-based bank as general counsel, starting March 27. He succeeds James Strother, 65, who is retiring after three decades at the company, including 13 years leading its law department.

Parker will be based in San Francisco, reporting to CEO Tim Sloan and sitting on the operating committee, the company’s top leadership tier. The Duke University graduate joins the company from Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, where he has been a partner in the law firm’s corporate department.

In September, regulators fined the San Francisco-based bank $185 million to settle allegations that its employees opened as many as two million fake accounts in order to meet high-pressure sales goals. The scandal has tarnished the bank’s reputation, cost former CEO John Stumpf his job and spurred new investigations, including by the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Allen is well known throughout the legal and financial services industries not only for advising some of the world’s largest companies on their most complex legal matters, but also for his strong character, integrity, and high ethical standards,” Sloan said in a statement.

“His background and corporate experience make him the ideal leader for this role as his efforts will be instrumental in helping our company continue to rebuild trust, make things right with customers, and build a better Wells Fargo.”

Wells Fargo has reportedly been searching for Strother’s replacement for months. The company has about 965 people in its legal department, including about 250 in Charlotte, including several leaders, the bank said.

Strother joined Wells Fargo predecessor Norwest in 1986 and will remain with the company for a transition period. During his tenure, he provided legal services to a number of business units and worked on big mergers, including the 2008 purchase of Charlotte’s Wachovia. The bank announced last week that he was among eight executives to lose 2016 bonuses and stock awards over the sales scandal.

Wells Fargo has its biggest employment hub in Charlotte, with more than 23,000 employees. Of the company’s 11 top executives, three are based here.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker