Following an investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) ordered Wells Fargo to pay a senior manager more than $22 million for retaliating against them after they raised concerns about misconduct.
The investigation, conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Chicago Regional Office, found that Wells Fargo “violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes–Oxley Act when it terminated the senior manager who had repeatedly voiced concerns to area managers and the corporate ethics line regarding conduct they believed violated relevant financial laws, including wire fraud,” according to the news release.
The news release states that the manager “expressed concerns that they were directed to falsify customer information and alleged that management was engaged in price fixing and interest rate collusion through exclusive dealing.”
Though “the manager believed the conduct was illegal based on company-required training, they were terminated in 2019.” At first, Wells Fargo did not provide a reason for the manager’s termination; however, later the company “alleged the manager was terminated as part of a restructuring process.” The news release states that OSHA investigators found that the particular manager’s firing “was not consistent” with the company’s “treatment of other managers removed under the initiative.” The senior manager filed a complaint with OSHA’s Chicago Regional Office, which also investigated the case.
The more than $22 million Wells Fargo is to pay to the senior manager “includes back wages, interest, lost bonuses and benefits, front pay and compensatory damages.” According to the press release, both the senior manager and Wells Fargo “have 30 days from the receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before an administrative law judge.”
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker reaffirmed the DOL’s commitment to protecting whistleblowers’ rights: “The evidence demonstrates Wells Fargo took retaliatory action against this senior manager for repeatedly expressing concerns about financial management they believed violated federal laws…The Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects employees from retaliation in these very circumstances and the Department of Labor will not tolerate employers who violate the law and illegally terminate workers that exercise their rights under the law.”
On August 11, OSHA announced that the agency “revised the Whistleblower Investigations Manual for the agency in its ‘first complete overhaul since 2011.’” The revised manual “outlines procedures and other information relative to the handling of retaliation complaints under the various whistleblower statutes for which responsibility was delegated to OSHA,” according to prior WNN reporting.