Wells Fargo's CEO will apologize at Senate hearing

NEW YORK - Wells Fargo's (WFC) chief executive is saying the bank remains "deeply sorry" for its sales tactics and that a year since the scandal over it exploded, it has substantially changed for the better.

The comments from Tim Sloan come ahead of his scheduled appearance in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday. The testimony occurs about a year since his predecessor did the same and was grilled about the sales practices that led to millions of accounts being opened by Wells Fargo employees without customers' permission.

The bank has paid $185 million in fines and has agreed to pay $242 million in a class action settlement.

Sloan's predecessor, John Stumpf, testified twice in front of Congress last fall. His poor performance was widely chastised, and the scandal led to his ouster.

In Sloan's prepared comments, released on Monday, he said: "When my predecessor testified here last year, we had not fully grappled with the damage the sales practices scandal had done to our customers, our team members, and their trust in the bank. We came to Congress without a good plan and all of you were right to criticize us. But I heard you -- and I heard our customers and our team members -- loud and clear. You expect us to do better, and so do we."

He goes on to apologize for the practices that led to Stumpf's ouster. "I am deeply sorry for letting down our customers and team members. I apologize for the damage done to all the people who work and bank at this important American institution."

And he promises to do better. "Wells Fargo is a better bank today than it was a year ago. And next year, Wells Fargo will be a better bank than it is today. That is because we have spent the past year determined to earn back the public's trust.

However, that might not be enough to keep Democratic critics from calling for further changes, said Cowen Washington Research Group. "We do not believe the prepared remarks are enough to satisfy Senate Democrats or to put to bed the fake account controversy. As a result, we believe Wells Fargo will continue to be in the political spotlight," the firm said in a statement.

"For us," it added, "the biggest question is whether Democrats can pressure the Federal Reserve to force out Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan and others who were top executives when the fake accounts were opened. We see risk here and believe Sloan needs a strong performance during Q&A to at least temporarily defuse this threat."