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From Banking and Finance Law Daily, November 4, 2016

Did Wells Fargo retaliate against whistleblowers? Senators ask

By J. Preston Carter, J.D., LL.M.

In a letter to Wells Fargo's new CEO, Timothy J. Sloan, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Ron Wyden (D-Ore), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) question whether the bank’s filings with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, relating to the termination of employees for creating more than two million unauthorized checking and credit card accounts, reveal that the company took retaliatory action by reporting defamatory information on whistleblowers. The senators wrote that new information obtained from FINRA revealed that from 2011 to 2015, Wells Fargo filed over 200 termination reports (Form U5) with FINRA for employees who were fired for actions related to the unauthorized accounts scandal.

"These reports...confirm that Wells Fargo had ample information about the scope of fraudulent sales practices occurring at the bank long before the CFPB settlement, and they raise additional questions about Wells Fargo's response to this illegal activity," according to Warren’s press release. "If this is the case, then it would appear that Wells Fargo concealed key information from regulators that may have revealed the bank's misdeeds long before the September 2016 settlement."

Additionally, the senators wrote, recent public news reports suggest that Wells Fargo may have violated FINRA rules by filing incomplete or inaccurate U5s for many fired employees, raising questions about whether the company took retaliatory action by reporting defamatory information on whistleblowers.

The senators wrote, "According to these reports, Wells Fargo terminated employees...for failing to meet the bank's aggressive sales quotas; others were terminated after reporting illegal activity to Wells Fargo management. In an unknown number of these cases, Wells Fargo may have filed Form U5s that did not accurately reflect the reasons why employees were fired...If Wells Fargo submitted false or incomplete information about the fired employees in its mandatory disclosures to FINRA, the bank may have violated FINRA rules and misled regulators about the scope of the fraud."

Companies: Wells Fargo

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