Treasury Sec. Lew says financial system is dangerous if you don’t have protections in place

The recent controversy over Wells Fargo creating phony accounts for customers highlights the need for strong banking regulation, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Tuesday.

Speaking at the 2016 Delivering Alpha conference, Lew declined comment on the specific Wells Fargo case but said it does make a more general point.

“This ought to be a moment where people stop and remember how dangerous the system is when you don’t have the proper protections in place,” Lew said. “This is a wake-up call and should remind all of us that culture and compensation make a difference. How you reward people, how you motivate people and what values you hold people to matters.”

The conference is hosted by CNBC and Institutional Investor.

The Wells Fargo case came to light late last week when the bank agreed to pay a $185 million fine for what regulators called “widespread illegal” sales practices.

While the bank fired more than 5,000 employees, no one has been charged and the person overseeing the bank division in question received $124.6 million before leaving the bank.

Lew said no one should be “too big to jail.”

“The pattern of behavior that we’ve seen here is something that needs to stop,” he said. “It is not acceptable to do things that are designed to increase either individual or firm bottom lines by deceiving customers or passing along charges that are either invisible or they don’t know about.”

In addition to declining comment about the specifics of the Wells Fargo case, he also passed on providing input for the current presidential race.

“I have not dissected any of the campaign proposals. I’m not doing politics in my current life,” he said.

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