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Commentary: 'Chutzpah' award for Wells Fargo

  • Story Highlights
  • Brown: Wells Fargo cancelled swanky Las Vegas trip for employees
  • Brown: Wells Fargo took $25 billion in bailout money from taxpayers
  • Brown: Only after AP reported the trip was still on did Wells Fargo decide to cancel
  • Brown: Is $200,000 in newspaper ads trashing the media, best use of money?
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Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Tuesday night's broadcast.

CNN's Campbell Brown says Wells Fargo should not have spent $200,000 on newspaper thank-you notes.

CNN's Campbell Brown says Wells Fargo should not have spent $200,000 on newspaper thank-you notes.

(CNN) -- Wells Fargo gets the "chutzpah" award for its PR counter attack. You may have heard about the bank's swanky Las Vegas trip that it had planned for its employees last weekend at two high-end casino resorts.

Keep in mind Wells Fargo took $25 billion in bailout money from taxpayers. It was only after The Associated Press broke the news that the annual getaway was still on, economic crisis be damned, that Wells Fargo, under public and government pressure, decided to cancel.

So, lesson learned? Not quite. This Sunday, Wells Fargo took out full-page newspaper ads in the New York Times and The Washington Post, by our calculation spending at least $200,000.

In the ads, Wells Fargo's CEO announced all of its big employee events for the year have now been canceled. He then blamed the media and said that our one-sided reporting on this subject makes every employee recognition event sound like a boondoggle. And that ultimately, our misleading reports have hurt Wells Fargo employees who deserve a pat on the back, and hurt the tourism industry since they aren't taking these trips anymore.

To which the reply can only be: Give me a break. This is really very simple: Taxpayers lent you $25 billion because of a national financial emergency. We don't think in the current environment you should be throwing lavish "thank you" parties. Period.

If you're really doing so well, how about thanking Americans instead by giving back our bailout money?

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In your ad, you say you hope Americans will understand when a company tries to do the right thing by honoring its employees. If you are really trying to do the right thing, then why did you scrap your Las Vegas getaway only after it became public and only after you got criticized for it?

And do you really think the best use of your money right now is to buy full page newspapers ads trashing the media, disguising the ads as thank you notes to your employees?

You want to thank your workers, try e-mail. Put the letter on your Web site instead. It won't cost a dime.


All of this is coming from the very CEO who has already warned of possible job cuts this year after the Wells Fargo takeover of Wachovia. Will those people get a thank-you note from you to go with their pink slip?

We invited Wells Fargo to come on tonight. The CEO declined.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Campbell Brown.

All About Wall StreetWells Fargo & CompanyLas Vegas

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