When Howard Atkins resigned from Wells Fargo & Co. on Tuesday, he didn't even leave behind the standard valedictory quote in a company press release that a 10-year veteran normally merits.

The curt announcement of the chief financial officer's retirement for "personal" reasons jarred investors and analysts. It stuck out as distinctively un-Wells-like, coming from a company that prides itself on management stability and smoothly orchestrated transitions. The fact that he left millions of dollars of unvested compensation on the table deepened the sense of mystery.

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