The Wells Fargo phony bank and credit card accounts scandal is barely five weeks old, but it felt like John Stumpf had been hanging on for five years.

The ax finally fell Wednesday, when the company put out a news release after the markets had closed saying that Stumpf had retired as chairman and chief executive effective immediately. Stumpf is stepping down, amid mounting anger from investors and policymakers over the creation of fraudulent accounts.

The change was described as a retirement by the company and is effective immediately. He will be succeeded by Tim Sloan, 56, who currently serves as president and chief operating officer. Wells Fargo has also made other executive recent executive changes, including the creation of a digital payments division.

Stumpf's exit marks the rare case of a major U.S. bank CEO stepping aside amid accusations of company misconduct. It also caps a remarkable change in fortune for a bank that, following the crisis, was regarded as a marquee brand. The new chairman is Stephen Sanger, who had been lead director. Independent director Elizabeth Duke, a former Federal Reserve Board governor, has been elevated to serve as vice chair.

Calls for Stumpf's resignation had escalated in recent weeks after the San Francisco company said on Sept. 8 it would pay nearly $190 million to settle charges that employees created roughly 2 million fake accounts to meet sales goals and collect bonuses.

More than 5,300 employees across the country were fired between 2011 and 2014 for creating the unlawful accounts.

Shortly after the settlement was disclosed, Wells Fargo said it would eliminate incentive packages that reward branch employees for cross-selling and hitting sales targets.

Still, Wells has struggled to contain the fallout from the cross-selling scandal — and, in the meantime, the company's once-sterling reputation has taken a significant hit.

Adding to the furor was a disastrous appearance by Stumpf in front of the Senate Banking Committee on Sept. 20. During his testimony, Stumpf fumbled basic questions such as when exactly the company uncovered the pervasive fraud.

Stumpf also provided confusing answers about whether senior executives have been held responsible for the scandal — and if they will be subject to clawbacks in pay. Carrie Tolstedt, the former executive in charge of retail banking, retired in July and is eligible for a $125 million compensation package.

Stumpf was named CEO of Wells Fargo in June 2007, succeeding longtime executive Richard Kovacevich. Stumpf added the title of chairman nearly three years later, in January 2010.

In his first few months on the job, Stumpf oversaw one of one of the biggest deals in banking history, when Wells Fargo agreed in late 2008 bought the $510 billion-asset Wachovia, which was on the brink of collapse.

Stumpf spent more than three decades at Wells Fargo and its predecessor companies. He joined Minneapolis-based Norwest Corp. in 1982 and quickly worked his way up the ranks. When Wells Fargo merged with Norwest in 1998, Stumpf took over as head of banking operations in the Southwest.

In 2002, Stumpf was named executive vice president and head of community banking. He was promoted to the roles of president and chief operating officer three years later.

In the lead-up to the announcement Wednesday, Sloan was widely viewed as the heir apparent. Still, some analysts had called on Wells to consider external candidates, arguing that an outsider was necessary to change company culture.

Sloan has been with Wells Fargo for 29 years. He was named president and chief operating officer in November 2015. "It's a great privilege to have the opportunity to lead one of America's most storied companies at a critical juncture in its history," Sloan was quoted as saying in the release. "My immediate and highest priority is to restore trust in Wells Fargo. It's a tremendous responsibility, one which I look forward to taking on."

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