The bad news keeps coming for Wells Fargo. A nearly $150 million settlement is pending for the fake-account scandal that roiled the bank last year, and a new scandal has emerged: Recently it has been alleged that thousands of customers were signed up for insurance without their knowledge. A bevy of lawsuits is in the pipeline, and regulatory scrutiny is intensifying. Meanwhile, one of Well Fargo’s chief competitors, Bank of America, has been relatively scandal free, with impressive revenue and profit results for the first half of 2017. What explains the divergence in the fortunes of two of the U.S.’s largest banks?
One possibility is the tone at the top. For the past several years, Wells Fargo has been run by MBAs, while Bank of America’s CEO since 2010, Brian Moynihan, has a law degree from Notre Dame. Might this difference in education influence how CEOs behave when it comes to setting a course and trimming corporate sails? After all, there’s a subtle difference in how these two disciplines train people to understand and manage risks: Legal training focuses on the downside of particular actions, while business training may emphasize the upsides for shareholder value from risk taking.
We were interested in how lawyer CEOs might influence firm decision making more broadly — and whether they differ from CEOs without a law degree. I collaborated with Irena Hutton, Danling Jiang, and Matt Pierson to compare the behavior of CEOs with law degrees with those who earned a bachelor’s degree, MBA, or other degree. We looked at about 3,500 CEOs, about 9% of whom have law degrees. They were associated with nearly 2,400 publicly traded firms in the S&P 1500 from 1992 to 2012.
Read more at Harvard Business Review