Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wells Fargo planning a Vegas "junket" for its corporate officials

Oh my--this doesn't look too good. From MSNBC News:

WASHINGTON - Wells Fargo & Co., which received $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money, is planning a series of corporate junkets to Las Vegas casinos this month.

Wells Fargo, once among the nation’s top writers of subprime mortgages, has booked 12 nights at the Wynn Las Vegas and its sister hotel, the Encore Las Vegas beginning Friday, said Wynn spokeswoman Michelle Loosbrock. The hotels will host the annual conference for company’s top mortgage officers.

The conference is a Wells Fargo tradition. Previous years have included all-expense-paid helicopter rides, wine tasting, horseback riding in Puerto Rico and a private Jimmy Buffett concert in the Bahamas for more than 1,000 employees and guests.

“I was amazed with just how lavish it was,” said Debra Rickard, a former Wells Fargo mortgage employee from Colorado who attended the events regularly until she left the company in 2004. “We stayed in top hotels, the entertainment was just unbelievable, and there were awards — you got plaques or trophies.”

While the nation’s recession has led other banks, such as Bank of America, to cancel employee recognition outings, Wells Fargo has not.

“Recognition events are still part of our culture,” spokeswoman Melissa Murray said. “It’s really important that our team members are still valued and recognized.”

Now I can understand the need for companies to provide such parties as a means of rewarding top employees for the work they have done for Wells Fargo, but the company timing of this lavish party is a complete disaster. First, Wells Fargo received $25 billion in taxpayer bailout money--and now Wells Fargo wants to put on a Vegas party for its employees. I'm not sure if American taxpayers are going to be thrilled to hear that Wells Fargo is putting on this huge party with what could be some of this bailout money--your taxpayer money is at work with Wells Fargo! Second, not only do we have a deepening recession taking place in this country, but more huge layoffs are still taking place. Macy's is cutting 7,000 jobs. Almost 524,000 jobs were lost last December, with the unemployment rate rising from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent. And Wells Fargo wants to have a Vegas party? Want to guess how lavish this party will be? Continuing further in the MSNBC story:

Beginning Feb. 25, Wells Fargo’s insurance division is hosting a 40-person team meeting at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Murray did not immediately have details about the size or cost of the events or what was planned.

In previous years, top loan officers were treated to performances by Cher, Jay Leno and Huey Lewis. One year, the company provided fortune tellers and offered camel rides, Rickard said. Every night when employees returned to their rooms, there was a new gift on their pillows, she said.

Wells Fargo Chairman Richard Kovacevich has traditionally greeted every employee personally when they arrived.

Rooms at the Wynn and the Encore are consistently among the most expensive in Las Vegas. The $2.3 billion Encore opened in December as sister hotel to the Wynn. Its decor includes a 27-foot Asian dragon made from 90,000 Swarovski crystals and artwork by Colombian artist Fernando Botero. One of the restaurants features Frank Sinatra’s 1953 Oscar.

It may be important to recognize your employees by providing such perks, but the timing of this lavish party stinks--especially with more Americans feeling the pressures of job losses, losing their homes, increasing prices on gas and energy, and the corporate excesses of purchasing $50 million corporate jets, $18 billion Wall Street bonuses, and a multi-million office redecoration. What is worst, Wells Fargo is giving this party in recognition to their top mortgage underwriters--probably the same people who underwrote the billions of subprime mortgages that have gotten this country into the current economic and housing mess in the first place. How hypocritical can Wells Fargo become? This party is going to draw some serious critical attention to Wells Fargo--even if the company claims it is giving this party as recognition for its employees.

No comments: