Wells Fargo Ordered To Rehire Whistleblower, Pay $5.4M In Lost Wages

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

Wells Fargo must rehire a wealth management group manager who was fired after reporting suspected fraudulent behavior to the bank’s ethics hotline.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Monday that the bank must rehire the man and pay him for lost wages.

According to OSHA, the man was abruptly fired from his position as a for Wells Fargo’s wealth management group in the Los Angeles area after he reported separate incidents of suspected bank, mail, and wire fraud by two employees under his supervision.

A rep for Wells Fargo tells Consumerist the whistleblower’s reports and OSHA’s order is not related to the bank’s fake account fiasco, in which Wells Fargo employees opened more than two million unauthorized accounts in order to meet high-pressure sales quotas. OSHA also confirmed that the incident is separate from the fake account fiasco.

After reporting the incidents in 2010, the man was told he had 90 days to find a new position with the company. When he was unable to do so, he was terminated.

The man says he has been unable to find a job in banking since he was fired.

An investigation by OSHA found that reporting the suspected fraud was at least a contributing factor in his termination, despite the fact that his actions was protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

In addition to rehiring the manager, Wells Fargo must also compensate him for money he didn’t earn while he was not working in the banking industry. Those funds are calculated to be about $5.4 million.

The company must also provide all employees with notice of their whistleblower protections under SOX.

Wells Fargo has the option to appeal the decision to the DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

A spokesperson for Wells Fargo tells Consumerist that the company takes the concerns of current and former employees seriously.

“This decision is a preliminary order and to date there has been no hearing on the merits of this case,” the rep said. “We disagree with the findings and will be requesting a full hearing of the matter.”

Monday’s order is just one whistleblower issue Wells Fargo is facing.

Several former employees have filed lawsuits against the bank claiming wrongful termination after calling the bank’s ethics hotline, leading lawmakers to urge the Department of Labor to inquire about the company’s actions. These allegations also prompted the DOL to review allegations that the bank violated federal laws by not paying overtime to employees.

Additionally, the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into the bank. While the nature of the probe wasn’t specified, it could be related to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s call for the SEC to look into whether Wells’ violated federal whistleblower protection laws after employee claim they were fired for reporting the bank’s bad deeds.