Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent a letter to the chief executive of Prudential Financial Inc. seeking information on sales of life insurance policies through Wells Fargo's retail bank channels, in a continuation of the ongoing investigation into the bank's cross-selling practices.
The Massachusetts senator, along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent the letter to Prudential CEO John Strangfeld Tuesday, requesting a briefing and documents about insurance sales through Wells Fargo.
Former Prudential employees filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the insurer in early December, claiming they were retaliated against for refusing to participate in Prudential's cover-up of fraudulent term-insurance sales at Wells Fargo. Plaintiffs claim the fraud relates to the Wells Fargo fake-accounts scandal that came to light in September.
Prudential on Monday announced it was suspending sales of the insurance product in question, called MyTerm, pending results of an internal review.
“To investigate the full extent of abuses perpetrated against consumers we request that you provide the following information regarding Prudential insurance policies sold through Wells Fargo bank branches for the timeframe of January 2013 to the present,” Sen. Warren and Rep. Cummings wrote, providing a list of eight items of information to be submitted by Jan. 13.
Those items include all documents and communications relating to how Prudential management first became aware of improper sales tactics used by Wells Fargo to sell Prudential insurance policies, customer complaints regarding the insurance sales, marketing of the policies and income derived from their sales.
"We received a letter from Rep. Cummings and Sen. Warren regarding our ongoing review into how Prudential's MyTerm product was distributed through Wells Fargo, and we will respond to their request for information,” according to Prudential spokesman Scot Hoffman. “If any Wells Fargo MyTerm customers have concerns about the way in which the product was purchased, we will reimburse the full amount of the premiums they paid and cancel the policy.”
Wells Fargo spokesman Mark Folk didn't have a specific comment on the letter. He said the firm is working with Prudential to investigate any unauthorized or inappropriate referrals that may have occurred and if customers received a product they didn't ask for “we will make it right.”
Sen. Warren has been an outspoken critic of big banks and Wall Street, and has been a strong supporter of the Labor Department's conflict-of-interest rule governing investment advice in retirement accounts.