It had been close to a month since we’d last seen John Oliver spew well-researched venom on his HBO series Last Week Tonight. In the interim, Oliver and his staff picked up an Emmy Award, cementing his status as the heir apparent to Jon Stewart, and Donald Trump inched closer to Hillary Clinton in the polls, bringing us one step closer to the end of the world as we know it.
While the main event was his comprehensive takedown of Donald Trump’s far worse scandals when compared to those of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and while he largely ignored Ted Cruz’s cowardly endorsement of Trump (“a nightmare endorsing a panic attack,” he quipped), Oliver did reserve some of his exquisite bite for Wells Fargo in the wake of their banking scandal.
“Wells Fargo: The only bank ever to be serenaded by an eight-year-old Ron Howard,” joked Oliver, before throwing to a clip of Howard singing an ode to Wells Fargo in the 1962 film The Music Man.
“Fuck you!” the satirist then screamed at Lil’ Ron after taking in the nauseating anthem.
“Just three weeks ago,” Oliver continued, “Wells Fargo was the most valuable bank in the world. But recently, its reputation has taken a massive hit after some alarming revelations.”
Namely, that employees at Wells Fargo transferred money from customers’ accounts without authorization, opened new accounts without telling customers, and charged fees on the phony accounts. The scandal affected as many as two million accounts.
“Wells Fargo employees created fake email addresses to enroll customers in hidden accounts creating pin numbers that customers didn’t even know existed,” said Oliver. “And hidden fees are bad enough without being hidden inside hidden accounts with hidden pin numbers made with hidden email addresses—because that’s like a Russian nesting doll where the last doll is giving you the middle finger.” Now, how did Wells Fargo employees get this idea? Well, according to the case against Wells Fargo: “Thousands of Respondents’ employees engaged in Improper Sales Practices to satisfy sales goals and earn financial rewards under Respondent’s incentive-compensation program. During the Relevant Period, Respondent terminated roughly 5,300 employees for engaging in Improper Sales Practices. Translation: Employees were highly incentivized to engage in fraud, and managers even instructed employees on how to engage in fraud in order to increase their compensation.
Oliver also channeled his inner Elizabeth Warren in ripping Wells Fargo CEO John G. Stumpf a new one for his performance in front of the Senate Banking Committee wherein he claimed to be completely ignorant of the widespread fraud.
“Stumpf actually appeared in front of the Senate Banking Committee this week with a bandage on his hand, which I legally can’t say is the result of carpal tunnel from typing in so many fake email addresses. And he wanted to be clear: he didn’t know anything about anything,” said Oliver.
The biggest argument Sen. Warren levied against Stumpf and Wells Fargo was that both he and the company hadn’t paid a fair enough penalty for their fraudulent behavior—a point echoed by Oliver on his program.
“This gets one step worse, because the total fine for Wells Fargo’s behavior was $185 million—which is nothing considering they made $23 billion in profit just last year, and it’s even less than Stumpf himself could walk away with if he does resign,” said Oliver, alluding to Stumpf’s estimated $200 million in payouts should he tender his resignation.
“The only way that could possibly be OK is if they put that money in 20 million fake accounts of $10 each and never, ever tell him about them.”