Wells Fargo Employees Shine a Light on Federal Whistleblower Protections

Wells Fargo has come under intense scrutiny for repeated ethical violations by employees.  As recently reported by the New York Times, recently-terminated Wells Fargo bankers contend that the ethical violations stemmed from intense pressure to meet unrealistic sales quotas set by bank management.  The pressure started from the top; Wells Fargo Chief Banking Officer John Stumpf set a goal for his employees to register each Wells Fargo customer for eight accounts.  After this quota pushed employees to engage in unethical sales tactics, the company then terminated at least 5,300 bank workers for their actions.  Other employees allege that they refused to commit ethical violations and then lost their jobs.  The New York Times reported that a new class action lawsuit has coalesced among current and former Wells Fargo employees.  The members of the class refused to engage in unethical sales tactics or informed management of the ethics violations long before this public disaster.  Rather than take the ethics violations seriously, management instead terminated employees.

Christopher Johnson is one example of a Wells Fargo employee who alleges he experienced whistleblower retaliation.  Mr. Johnson claims that the bank emphasized to him in training the importance of reporting unethical behavior.  Within two weeks of beginning work, Johnson’s manager began pressuring him to open accounts for family members without their knowledge.   When Johnson refused to comply, the manager accused Johnson of not being a “team player.”  Johnson later learned that his coworkers opened and closed accounts of customers to meet sales quotas.  They targeted elderly customers and customers who did not speak English well, because those customers were least likely to notice.  After Johnson called in a complaint to the ethics hotline, Wells Fargo fired him three days later, supposedly for “not meeting expectations.”  Johnson lost ownership of his house because he could not find subsequent employment.  He even lost his possessions when he could no longer afford to keep them in storage.

Whistleblowers like Christopher Johnson are protected under numerous federal statutes.  For example, Section 1514A of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects employees whose company retaliates against them for reporting alleged bank, mail, wire, or securities fraud.  Section 5567 of the Consumer Financial Protection Act protects whistleblowers who work for companies that offer consumer financial products or services.  The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is tasked with enforcing a variety of whistleblower statutes and regulations, and has reportedly received multiple complaints from Wells Fargo employees over the last ten years.

The lawyers of Correia & Puth PLLC represent whistleblowers who have been harassed, unfairly disciplined, or terminated despite taking a stand against a corporate culture that promotes fraud, deceit, and discrimination.  If you or someone you know has been subjected to whistleblower retaliation, please have them call 202-602-6500 or contact our office today.