AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Protesters rally outside the Marriott Hotel during the Wells Fargo annual shareholders’ meeting in 2018.
ESSAY

Joining a company board isn’t always the dream gig it once was

John Engen
Member exclusive by John Engen for The board is broken

Wells Fargo’s brass knew things might get ugly at the company’s 2017 annual shareholders meeting.

It would be the first public appearance by the board of directors since Wells became embroiled in a nasty phony-accounts scandal, in which thousands of its employees opened millions of fake accounts in customers’ names to meet sales goals or avoid the wrath of managers. It was a cultural breakdown of epic proportions, one that had already forced out former Chairman and CEO John Stumpf and several key lieutenants.

Now it was the board’s turn to meet shareholders. A blue-ribbon group that included 10 sitting or retired chairmen or CEOs, a former cabinet member, an Air Force general, and a former banking regulator, it had seemingly dropped the ball by allowing the scandal to occur. It then botched up the response and oversaw an investigation that was criticized for its lack of accountability.

You are reading a Quartz member exclusive.

Become a member to keep reading this story and unlock unlimited access to all Quartz articles, including our premium coverage.

Membership will also get you:

See the rest of our guide to The board is broken

Exclusive videos that show you how the world is changing faster than ever before

Deeper access to our journalists and the Quartz community

Our extensive archive of guides on the forces that are shaping our future