Warren Buffett finally speaks out on Wells Fargo & Co scandal

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Berkshire Hathaway (ticker: BRK.A, BRK.B) kingpin Warren Buffett was keeping mum on the Wells Fargo & Co (WFC) – until now, given recent speculation on his opinion of the company. In fact, he went as far as to lambast a report that he is seeking a "radical transformation."

"It's dead wrong to imply I've spoken to the board directly. Going to the board implies I've gone around [Wells Fargo CEO John] Stumpf, the guy who is under fire," Buffett said to CNBC. "I've talked to no one else on the board."OKA

Buffett, who is arguably the best investor of all time, holds 320 million shares of WFC stock, or more than 6 percent of the company. So the man known as the Oracle of Omaha has a keen interest – and significant influence – in Wells Fargo in light of a scandal that has forced Wells Fargo to pay $185 million in settlement fees and an additional $5 million in customer remediation.

See photos of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf:

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Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf
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Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf
John Stumpf, President and CEO of Wells Fargo, participates in a panel at the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California November 2, 2015. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf speaks during a news conference for Wachovia employees at the Wachovia corporate headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 15, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES)
TARP recipient financial institution leaders testify before House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 11, 2009. From left are, Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon, Bank of New York's Robert Kelly, Bank of America's Ken Lewis,State Street's Ronald Logue, Morgan Stanley's John Mack, Citi's Vikram Pandit, and Wells Fargo's John Stumpf. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf testifies before a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the firm's sales practices on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 20: John Stumpf, chairman and CEO of the Wells Fargo & Company, prepares for testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee September 20, 2016 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony on the topic of 'An Examination of Wells Fargo's Unauthorized Accounts and the Regulatory Response.' (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
John Stumpf, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Wells Fargo & Co., speaks at the Bloomberg Year Ahead: 2014 conference in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. Stumpf said he dislikes Federal Reserve monthly bond purchases at this point in the economic cycle and that the policy has hurt savers. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30: Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf (L) speaks with Wall Street Journal Editor in Chief Gerry Baker on FOX Business Networks' 'Opening Bell With Maria Bartiromo' at FOX Studios on April 30, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)
John Stumpf, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Wells Fargo & Co., speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 7, 2015. Wells Fargo, the fourth-biggest U.S. bank by assets and the nation's leading home lender, in March left Stumpf's pay unchanged at $19.3 million after the firm generated a bigger profit than any other U.S. bank for a second straight year. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
John Stumpf, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Wells Fargo & Co., listens to a question during an interview in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 7, 2015. Wells Fargo, the fourth-biggest U.S. bank by assets and the nation's leading home lender, in March left Stumpf's pay unchanged at $19.3 million after the firm generated a bigger profit than any other U.S. bank for a second straight year. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement this month after it was disclosed that its employees created 2 million phony credit card and bank accounts for customers without their consent to boost sales figures and make more money. The bank fired 5,300 employees, but some members of Congress say Stumpf should also lose his job or face criminal charges.

Douglas Kass of Seabreeeze Partners Management wrote for The Street that Buffett called for "a radical transformation of the bank's ethics, in no uncertain terms."

But Buffett says he never went to the board.

Further, Buffett's office confirmed to Reuters that he talked with Stumpf just once after the scandal came to light. According to Buffett, the talk lasted only five minutes, where Buffett said Stumpf might be facing a larger problem than anticipated, and let him know that the fines levied against Wells Fargo were "not a metric to use in determining public reaction."

Buffett previously had said that he wouldn't make any comments on the Wells Fargo situation until November.

Click through for photos of Warren Buffett:

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Warren Buffett through the years
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Warren Buffett through the years
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (L) cofers with billionaire investor Warren Buffet (R) during a meeting with Wall Street investors at the Ritz Carlton hotel February 25, 2004 in New York City. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Kathy WILLENS (Photo credit should read KATHY WILLENS/AFP/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - MARCH 25: Philanthropist Warren Buffet (C) wears a LeBron James Witness tee-shirt as he cheers for the Cleveland Cavaliers during a game against the Denver Nuggets March 25, 2007 at The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2007 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., right, speaks to David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group, during the Economic Club of Washington dinner event in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. Buffett said he doesn't expect another U.S. recession unless Europe's crisis spreads. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 18: Billionaire investor Warren Buffett speaks at an event called, 'Detroit Homecoming' September 18, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The purpose of the invitation-only event of Detroit expatriats is to give the group a chance to reconnect, reinvest and reinvent with their hometown. The topic of Buffet's conversation was, 'Why I'm Bullish on Detroit.' (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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Stumpf did not give details, but said that he and Buffett talked about the scandal once when speaking Thursday at a House Financial Services Committee hearing. Stumpf also faced an onslaught from lawmakers at the hearing.

"Mr. Stumpf, I regrettably have a mortgage with your bank. I wish I didn't," Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, said at the hearing. "If I was in a position to pay it off, I would, because you have broken my trust, and you have broken the trust of millions of others."

WFC stock is down 18.38 percent on the year. The company has lost more than $20 billion in market value since the scandal broke.

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