Wells Fargo & Company is an American international banking and financial services holding company headquartered in San Francisco, California, with "hubquarters" throughout the country. It is the world's second-largest bank by market capitalization and the third largest bank in the U.S. by assets. In July 2015, Wells Fargo became the world's largest bank by market capitalization, edging past ICBC, before slipping behind JP Morgan Chase in September 2016, in the wake of a scandal involving the creation of over 2 million fake bank accounts by thousands of Wells Fargo employees. Wells Fargo surpassed Citigroup Inc. to become the third-largest U.S. bank by assets at the end of 2015. Wells Fargo is the second-largest bank in deposits, home mortgage servicing, and debit cards. The firm's primary U.S. operating subsidiary is national bank Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., which designates its main office as Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
In 2016, Wells Fargo ranked 7th on the Forbes Magazine Global 2000 list of largest public companies in the world and ranked 27th on the Fortune 500 list of largest companies in the United States. In 2015, the company was ranked the 22nd most admired company in the world, and the 7th most respected company in the world. As of October 2015, the company had a credit rating of AA−. However, for a brief period in 2007, the company was the only AAA-rated bank, reflecting the highest credit rating from two firms.
Wells Fargo in its present form is a result of a merger between San Francisco–based Wells Fargo & Company and Minneapolis-based Norwest Corporation in 1998 and the subsequent 2008 acquisition of Charlotte-based Wachovia. Following the mergers, the company transferred its headquarters to Wells Fargo's headquarters in San Francisco and merged its operating subsidiary with Wells Fargo's operating subsidiary in Sioux Falls. Along with JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup, Wells Fargo is one of the "Big Four Banks" of the United States. As of December 31, 2015, it had 8,700 retail branches and 13,000 automated teller machines. The company operates across 35 countries and has over 70 million customers globally.
In February 2014, Wells Fargo was named the world's most valuable bank brand for the second year running in The Banker and Brand Finance study of the top 500 banking brands. Following the emergence in September 2016 of the scandals involving unauthorized cross-selling and the creation of fake accounts, Wells Fargo in October 2016 became the largest bank ever to lose its accreditation with the Better Business Bureau and was also placed under investigation by the California attorney general for alleged criminal identity theft during the creation of millions of accounts without customer consent. Separately in October 2016, Wells Fargo settled upon a payout for a racketeering lawsuit alleging the overcharging of hundreds of thousands of homeowners by the bank for appraisals ordered after defaults on the customers' mortgage loans. In December 2016, following the scandal, the company amended its by-laws to separate the roles of chairman and CEO. In January 2017, it emerged that Wells Fargo had kept its talks with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about the fake account investigation silent from shareholders for up to six months beginning as early as March 2016.
A regulatory filing by Wells Fargo revealed in November 2016 that it was under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in relation to its accounts sales practices. Also in November 2016, three U.S. senators alleged that Wells Fargo's sales scandal had extended from retail bankers to its brokerage employees, and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency placed new monitoring restrictions upon Wells Fargo's hiring of new executives, payments of "golden parachutes" to exiting managers, and branch openings and closures. In December 2016, Bloomberg News reported that regulators in California and New Jersey announced that Wells Fargo was under investigation to determine whether the bank signed up customers for Prudential Financial life insurance policies without their permission, and that Prudential announced it was suspending distribution of such policies through Wells Fargo.