Wells Fargo ordered to reinstate employee in whistleblower case

Wells Fargo & Co. was ordered to reinstate a former branch manager who was fired after she reported potentially fraudulent conduct by private bankers she supervised.

The U.S. Department of Labor ordered the employee, who worked in Wells Fargo’s Pomona, California, branch, reinstated with back wages, damages and other fees totaling $577,500, the department said Friday in a statement.

Investigators with the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined that the San Francisco-based banking and financial services company terminated the employee in September 2011 when she raised concerns that private bankers were opening customer accounts and enrolling customers in bank products without their knowledge or consent, according to the statement.

OSHA also found Wells Fargo fired the branch manager for reporting violations of consumer financial laws implemented and enforced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The former branch manager’s reports to Wells Fargo Bank were determined to be protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, and were determined to be at least a contributing factor in her termination.

“No banking industry employee should fear retaliation for raising concerns about fraud and practices that violate consumer financial protections,” Barbara Goto, OSHA regional administrator in San Francisco, said in the statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor will fully and fairly enforce the whistleblower protection laws under its jurisdiction.”

Wells Fargo was also ordered to post a notice informing employees of their whistleblower protections, the statement said.

“We take seriously the concerns of current and former team members,” a Wells Fargo spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “This decision is a preliminary order and to date there has been no hearing on the merits of this case. We disagree with the findings and will be requesting a full hearing of the matter.”