Wells Fargo Grilling - Why It Cant Happen In India

WELLS FARGO BACKDROP


One of the latest videos running viral on Social Media currently is the brilliant takedown of the Wells Fargo Top Man by a Senator, an excellent demonstration of interrogative skills, diligent and fair research, and deep domain expertise combined into one devastating argument. For the unaware, in very short, The Well Fagro account fraud scandal is an ongoing controversy brought about by the creation of millions of fraudulent savings and checking accounts on behalf of Wells Fargo clients without their consent. Various regulatory bodies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), fined the company a combined $185 million dollars as a result of the illegal activity, and the company faces additional civil and criminal suits. You can read more on it here : Wells Fargo Accounts Scandal - Wiki

THE SITUATION IN INDIA - A REAL WORLD EXAMPLE – TRUE CASE
While I agree with the general contention of all who have voiced a regret that this is not the case in India, that such searching questions are not asked of corporations in India- one can offhand think of more than a few cases where such deep questions can be asked, and should certainly be asked. Let me state just one, and that too individual example, let alone the bigger cases. A very well known conglomerate, highly respected, once opened a division to sell corporate debt bonds, or FDs, to unsuspecting investors. My Dad invested quite a bit of his money in it, despite my ardent pleas not tom as my analysis told me to beware. The net result is that we defaulted on our final installment {we were paying in two parts} on our home, lost it – and my parents died without a residence. We haven’t seen that money since.

This is just one example – there are others. The above is quoted just to make a point; that enforcement and accountability in extremely lax in India. This is beyond debate – even in the above case, there was a lot of, aah, action. A lot of noise, a lot of so-called questions and what-not. But the long and short of it was that we never got to see our money again -and it has now been 20+ years. I haven’t forgotten – that company is responsible for a lot of pain my parents went through. Neither can I forgive myself that despite having the knowledge and the ability I was unable to prevent the catastrophy that befell us.

THE ISSUES IN INDIA
The point of relevance is that never have I seen such stunningly blunt questioning being asked of the top management as in this video; and never have I seen such transparency being at least asked for from the Government to the Corporate Top Managers. This does not mean all is well on wall street – that it assuredly isn’t; it is as bad, maybe worse – far worse, than Indian Companies. History is mute proof of that – and we don’t need to go beyond 10 years in that history for proof. Wall Street and/or The Oh-So-Great West hasn’t learnt, not by a long shot; but at least they are asking, or are beginning to ask, hard questions of the Top Management and trying to hold them accountable for their misdeeds.

What we need is a dose of the same – hard, searching questions asked in televised open debates from Senior Management, by Parliamentarians  & Regulators who have deep domain expertise in that area, backed by thorough solid investigation and research. Let us be honest and ask ourselves do we have the atmosphere in the environs that matter – Parliament & Regulators -that can allow such a move? Knowledge isn’t an issue; that is certain – there are experts with deep domain skills available even in the regulators and the Government. But is it feasible for us, given the current atmosphere that prevails, that can allow such sessions with Top Honchoes from Corporate India? Look around, and see who has defaulted, and got away; who has done scams, or has highlighted major shortcomings, and got away without deep searching questions in public. The list is long.

CONCLUSION – AND SOME SOUL SEARCHING
In most cases we get investigations running into years, court cases, but no top man is ever brought to answer his or her decisions, actions; not in my case above, and not in any other case in my memory. Contrast with this Wells Fargo video – this happened in 2012-2014/15; and already we have this brilliant takedown. Thus, it isn’t just a question of will or atmosphere or ability alone – it is the entire ecosystem that needs to evolve to that level of accountability and speed of execution. Hard fact is that in India, we don’t ask our leaders any questions, be it in Public Sphere or be it in the Corporate World.

Ask yourselves – do we have the requisite resources in each identified area to execute something like this? How many scamsters, corporate top guys etc have been grilled like this? What is more – can they be grilled like this in India? If no, why not? Bringing this here requires more than just will etc – it requires investigation, proper and fast response mechanisms to a crisis, people of domain expertise involved in this matter who can guide the investigators in the right direction; it requires a speed of execution, and relative independence in operation.  That requires deep seated reform at the central and state polity; it requires speed of execution and independence, and freedom from political-corporate nexus. That is what we need – can we make it happen? I certainly hope so; but I fear not… I hope I am wrong….


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