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Wells Fargo’s Parker downplays notion he'll get CEO job permanently

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Wells Fargo executives on Tuesday refused to tip their hand on the search for a new leader, but interim CEO Allen Parker seemed to downplay speculation that he could take the job on a permanent basis.

Speaking on the company’s conference call to discuss its second-quarter results, Parker said that he has not been personally involved in the search. He said the board of directors and search committee would not provide any updates on their progress, but he stressed that Wells is still looking to hire an outsider.


“From the very beginning they’ve said they’re going to be seeking someone from the outside and as far as I know, they’ve never wavered from that,” he said, replying to an analyst’s question about the status of the search.

Parker has been interim CEO of the $1.9 trillion-asset Wells Fargo since Tim Sloan stepped down in March. Wells Fargo has been under pressure to pick an outsider who is not tied to any of Wells' scandals of recent years, but the search has proven tough. Revelations in September 2016 that millions of Well Fargo accounts were set up without customers’ permission led to a slew of other scandals; the company's yearslong stumblings have cost two CEOs their jobs and would present many headaches for a newcomer.

In his limited remarks on the matter Tuesday, Parker alluded to “speculation back and forth” about the candidates for the job. Some have speculated that Wells Fargo could simply choose to keep Parker in the post if it did not find a suitable candidate elsewhere, and some senior executives are said to have lobbied for Parker to be given the job. Meanwhile, Bank of America's Cathy Bessant has been discussed as a likely candidate, while JPMorgan Chase’s Gordon Smith has reportedly been ruled out. Some had also previously speculated Bill Demchak, chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Group, could be a candidate, but Demchak shot down those rumors on his company’s first-quarter earnings call in April. Others, including former U.S. Bancorp chief Richard Davis, are either said to be out of the running or not interested in the job.

Parker is a lawyer who spent most of his career at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP before joining Wells as general counsel in 2017.

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