Departure of 4 Wells Fargo bankers related to single transaction, source says

The departure of four foreign-exchange bankers from Wells Fargo’s corporate and investment bank this month was related to a single client transaction, and the customer is aware of the situation, a source familiar with the matter told the Observer Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the San Francisco-based bank fired four bankers in its foreign-exchange unit amid an investigation by the bank and regulators. A Wells Fargo spokeswoman has confirmed the bankers are no longer with the company but has not provided any details about the departures or investigation. The bank has also confirmed that the former head of the foreign-exchange business took a new assignment in the company.

The source, who was not authorized to publicly speak on the matter, did not identify the customer whose transaction was involved in the matter. Wells Fargo’s foreign-exchange business provides an array of services to multinational corporations, from international wire tranfers to hedging contracts that allow companies to manage risk related to foreign currencies.

The investigation is the latest black eye for Wells Fargo, which is still trying to recover from a retail banking sales scandal that spurred regulatory penalties, congressional hearings and a CEO change. The latest probe takes place in a different part of the company: the corporate and investment bank that has a significant Charlotte presence.

The four bankers who have left the company are Simon Fowles, Bob Gotelli, Jed Guenther and Michael Schaufler, Wells Fargo said last week. Guenther was based in Charlotte, while LinkedIn pages for Fowles and Gotelli indicate they worked in California. A page for Schaufler could not be found. The four bankers could not be reached for comment.

Wells Fargo also said last week that the former head of its foreign exchange business, Sara Wardell-Smith, has taken a new position as Americas regional leader in Wells Fargo’s financial institutions group, based in San Francisco. That group provides services to other banks.

The foreign exchange business is now operating under the leadership of Charlotte-based executive Ben Bonner. He reports to the Charlotte-based co-heads of Wells Fargo Securities, Walter Dolhare and Rob Engel.

Wells Fargo Securities provides corporate clients with Wall Street-style services such as merger advice, stock and bond offerings, and securities trading. The unit has about 5,000 employees worldwide, with the largest portion based in Charlotte.

Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker

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