Magazine article American Banker

Wells Fargo Investigates Claims of Retaliation vs. Whistleblowers

Magazine article American Banker

Wells Fargo Investigates Claims of Retaliation vs. Whistleblowers

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Berry

Wells Fargo is investigating possible cases of retaliation against employees who spoke up about illegal sales practices, Chief Executive Tim Sloan said Thursday.

Sloan, who took over from John Stumpf last month as the bank tries Wells to put a phony-accounts scandal behind it, apologized to employees who may have faced such retribution.

"I want to be clear: retaliation is unacceptable," Sloan told 2,000 employees in prepared remarks at a town hall meeting in Des Moines. "It's against our policy, and it is totally unacceptable to me personally. It will not be tolerated at Wells Fargo."

Sloan said an internal investigation into complaints to an ethics hotline had found that "the majority of cases" so far were handled appropriately, but some may not have been.

"There are some instances where we have questions so we are doing further investigation of those matters," Sloan said. "We are looking into any and all allegations of retaliation, and we will take appropriate actions based on what we find."

Wells has been sued by former employees who allege they were fired after contacting an ethics hotline to report on high-pressure sales tactics. One lawsuit filed by six former employees in federal court seeks $7.2 billion for employees nationwide who were allegedly fired or demoted for refusing to open fake accounts to meet sales quotas.

Wells agreed in September to a $190 million settlement with the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The bank said that it had fired 5,300 employees for opening 2 million phony bank and credit card accounts for consumers who never asked for them from 2011 to 2015.

Last week, three Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Wells asking for more information about the employee firings. …

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