Wells Fargo may have been aware of the company’s widespread policy of opening false accounts in customers’ names as early as 2010, according to complaints and lawsuits from former employees who say they were retaliated against for reporting the practices.
At least five of the bank’s employees sued Wells Fargo or filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Reuters reported. Those employees alleged they were unfairly retaliated against for reporting pressure to “game” the bank’s sales quotas by opening accounts customers did not authorize.
Wells Fargo opened as many as 2 million accounts without customer permission and has been fined $190 million. The bank fired 5,300 employees who were found to be complicit in the scandal between 2011 and 2015, and Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf forfeited $41 million in compensation. He is appearing Thursday for the second time on Capitol Hill to testify before the House Financial Services Committee.
"We should have done more sooner, but we will not stop working until we get this right," Stumpf told a panel of critical lawmakers.
Two former personal bankers, Yesenia Guitron and Judi Klosek, filed a joint suit in 2010 alleging Wells Fargo retaliated against them for reporting the organized falsifying of accounts. Guitron said she was fired improperly after the bank fabricated documents showing her poor performance and refused to allow her to take family medical leave. A federal judge dismissed her complaints, saying Wells Fargo had a right to fire her for not meeting sales quotas.
Klosek said her position was filled while she was on disability leave receiving breast cancer treatment and was rejected from other positions she applied for. She settled with Wells Fargo for an undisclosed amount.
Another former employee filed a suit in 2011 alleging that the “fraudulent banking practices” stretched as far back as 2005. Julie Tishkoff said the bank waged a “campaign of retaliation” against her. Wells Fargo said the case was settled in 2012.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Richele Messick said the company “takes measures to protect team members from retaliation.”
At least two other employees filed complaints with OSHA upon discovering the “excessive gaming” by the bank.
"Little did I know that my complaints to the ethics hotline of Wells Fargo Bank on these practices would be openly and directly conveyed to the very managers who would then start collecting write-up data on me," one employee wrote in a complaint seen by Reuters.