Yesterday, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf boasted to a Senate panel about the company’s ethical backbone, pointing out that the bank had fired 5,300 employees for allegedly opening nearly two million unauthorized deposit accounts. However, one former Fargo staffer says he was given the boot because he tried to alert the bank to his co-workers’ bad behavior.
Stumpf tried, fruitlessly, to reassure lawmakers during a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Tuesday that the company took its ethics and reporting of issues from employees seriously.
But former workers tell CNNMoney (warning: link has video that autoplays) that when they reported the opening and closing of unauthorized customer accounts they were promptly let go.
One employee, who worked in Pennsylvania, says he not only refused to open bogus accounts to meet sales goals, but that he also alerted the company’s ethics hotline and emailed human resources about others who were creating fake accounts.
According to the man, he told HR reps that he had been repeatedly asked to send out debit cards and PINs for unauthorized accounts, or to enroll customers in online banking without their knowledge.
“It ruined my life,” the man says, noting that he was fired for tardiness just eight days after sending an email to HR.
A former HR official tells CNNMoney that the man’s situation wasn’t a one-off, and that the bank allegedly put in place a method to retaliate against those who reported potential misconduct.
The tactics often involved monitoring an employee who had raised concerns about sales issues for small faults like showing up a few minutes late for work.
In some cases, the employee says if a worker showed up just two minutes late, it was grounds for termination.
Other employees claim they were bullied or chastised by co-workers for objecting to the use of fake accounts to game the system.
A senior business banker from Texas says she was fired earlier this month for something she didn’t do, after facing “harsh bullying… defamation of character” for reporting illegal sales practices to the company’s ethics line.
The company claimed at the time of her termination that she had falsified documents, a charge she denies. A co-worker, who still works for the bank, confirmed the woman’s story, noting that it was “really scary when you’re with a big corporation like this and HR doesn’t have your back.”
The stories the former Wells Fargo employees tell CNNMoney are similar to those reported earlier this week by a former bank manager and retail banking employee.
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