Wells Fargo's corporate responsibility chair resigns from private equity firm

Wells Fargo bank teller machines are seen in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith /File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federico Pena, a member of Wells Fargo’s board of directors and chairman of its corporate responsibility committee, has resigned from an advisory position with Vestar Capital Partners, a private equity firm.

In an interview on Sunday, Pena told Reuters his resignation had nothing to do with recent events at the bank, which has been reeling from a sales scandal that has slammed its shares and led to the resignation of Chief Executive and Chairman John Stumpf.

The corporate responsibility committee, which is meant to monitor the bank's reputation, has come under fire since it emerged that Wells Fargo's branch staff created as many as 2 million accounts without customers' knowledge to meet internal sales targets.

Pena said his tenure as head of the committee had not given him enough time to catch the sales problems, which stretched back five years.

"I only spent one year as the head of the committee," said Pena, who served as energy secretary and transportation secretary during Bill Clinton's presidency.

Pena said he resigned his advisory role at Vestar because he did not want his affiliation with the private equity firm to affect his advisory role at the Colorado Impact Fund, a venture capital fund.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is scrutinizing the private equity industry more closely, including what sort of confidential information its staff members and affiliates have, he added.

A spokeswoman for Vestar declined to comment on Pena’s departure.

Vestar also owns proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services, or ISS, which advises shareholders whether to approve members of a company’s board of directors in votes at their annual meetings.

Wells Fargo directors are expected to face a stormy shareholder meeting next year, but Pena said Vestar's ownership of ISS played no role in his decision and he had no connection to ISS.

A Vestar spokeswoman said: “ISS research is completely independent of Vestar.” ISS had no immediate response.

(Reporting by Dan Freed; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Peter Cooney)