CfA Executive Director Anne Weismann stated, “While many senators on both sides of the aisle have pilloried Wells Fargo for its reprehensible treatment of consumers, Sen. Corker’s comments have been tepid. Perhaps this is because of his long financial relationship with the bank.”
In 2014, Sen. Corker invested in a 650,000-square foot shopping center development in Mobile, Alabama called McGowin Park, a joint venture by a Chicago-based developer, and the Hutton Company, a construction company based in Chattanooga owned by Karen Hutton a former executive of CBL & Associates. Six days after making that investment, McGowin Park disclosed it had secured a loan from Wells Fargo to finance the development, which is projected to generate $200 million in annual revenues. The value of Sen. Corker’s stake likely increased after the announcement.
In addition, Wells Fargo is also a major lender to CBL & Associates, a Chattanooga real estate investment trust with which Sen. Corker has had a well-documented long and close relationship. Sen. Corker once worked with CBL, and its executives have been some of his chief supporters. Sen. Corker also has traded heavily and to significant profit in CBL’s stock. Last fall, CfA asked the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice to investigate whether Sen. Corker had engaged in insider trading. News reports have indicated such an investigation is ongoing.
CBL executives have regularly referred to their firm’s special relationship with Wells Fargo, referring to it as the company’s “lead bank” and noting that it helped prop up the firm during the 2008 financial crisis.
Another senator with ties to the bank is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). His wife, Elaine Chao, sits on Wells Fargo’s board of directors.