The rehabilitation of Wells Fargo

By Felix Salmon | Axios | May 14, 2021

Wells Fargo is no longer viewed as the least ethical big company in America. That’s the big lesson from the most recent Axios Harris reputation poll.

Why it matters: After hitting extreme Axios Harris lows in 2017, Wells Fargo embarked upon a massive public rehabilitation campaign in 2018. It seems to have worked.

Flashback: The bad news started with the revelation in 2016 that the bank had created millions of fake accounts and opened them without the account holders’ permission or even knowledge. It didn’t end there — a series of scandals followed, tarnishing Wells Fargo’s reputation — and that of its former CEO.

By the numbers: Wells Fargo’s “ethics” score of 38.9 in 2017 was by far the lowest in the history of the poll. (Wells Fargo and the Trump Organization are the only companies to ever score under 50.) This year, it has recovered to 62 — a big jump, even if it’s still in the bottom five.

  • Overall, Wells Fargo’s reputation score of 63 in 2021 puts it well ahead of Facebook, tied with TikTok, and slightly behind Comcast.
  • Other banks have also been improving. The reputation score for Bank of America, for instance, increased from 59.7 to 70.5 between 2017 and 2021.

The bottom line: Banks are generally unloved, with the notable exception of USAA, which has outperformed in every year of the survey. And Wells Fargo remains at the bottom of the banking pack. That said, the sector as a whole is improving.