A significant number of whistleblowers employed by Wells Fargo who wanted to report the terrible wrongdoing they observed were fired in retaliation by the company for wanting to open up, according to CNN. It is now known that Wells Fargo employees opened up 2,000,000 fake accounts in their customers’ names, stealing funds from patrons real accounts to open them, then invoicing fees and penalties,in many cases damaging the customers’ credit ratings.
It is not yet clear who the whistleblowers are. Wells Fargo did terminate 4500 employees over the wrongdoing.
CNN also reports that a former Wells Fargo HR manager said that the retaliatory firings worked: employees who blew the whistle would be monitored closely for minor infractions (e.g. being two minutes late for work), then fired “with cause.” Under certain laws, it can amount to a criminal offense to fire whistleblowers and it also makes the CEO and CFO personally, criminally liable for failures to create secure means by which whistleblowers can come forward without fear of retaliation.
So far, the only legal remedy for this massive fraud was a $185 million fine paid by Wells Fargo. No one has been charged or indicted and although Congress has been asking sensitive questions, it is unclear that there will be any criminal ramifications despite the size of the fraud. Individuals who were fired will being lawsuits but those will be settled monetarily.
There is a book that is about to be published which relates to the Wells Fargo Affair. It is entitled “A Return to Common Sense” https://blog.volkovlaw.com/2016/03/new-e-book-return-common-sense-justice-departments-latest-attempts-deter-corporate-criminals/ and it was written by Michael Volkov, a former federal prosecutor. I haven’t read it yet but I have ordered it and from reading published interviews with the author, he explores the Department of Justice decisions on prosecution since the release of the Yates memorandum.
Also, he disccuses the goals and expectations in dealing with corporate misconduct. He explains that the DOJ is starting to move in a different direction to focus on prosecuting individuals in cases against corporations. Volkov thinks this is long overdue and that the DOJ has been reluctant to prosecute individuals in in cases where many people were injured or killed as a result of the corporate wrongdoing. He suggests the DOJ was behaving like it is powerless to fight large corporations when it is not. In the case of Wells Fargo, we will see.
Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.