Fired Wells Fargo employee wins $5.4M and his job back
- A fired Wells Fargo manager won a $5.4 million settlement and reinstatement of his job, the New York Times reports. The manager was terminated in 2010 after reporting suspected mail, bank and wire fraud by two of his direct reports. The settlement and reinstatement were ordered by federal regulators at the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces laws protecting whistleblowers.
- The whistleblower reported the misconduct and was ultimately fired about the same time as the bank’s credit card scandal came to light, says the Times. So far, there’s no proof that the whistleblower’s case and the scandal were connected.
- Wells Fargo said it will review the whistleblower’s settlement, the Times says. The bank claims it gave the former manager 90 days to find a new position and fired him only when he failed to do so.
Two HR-specific questions emerge from the case: Why was a manager with favorable performance assessments told to find another job after reporting misconduct and why wasn’t he able to find employment in three months’ time? Possible retaliation and blacklisting might have occurred. Both are bad business practices that can land employers in hot water.
Wells Fargo’s current and past employees say the company has a history of ignoring complaints of misconduct. Senior executives, including the former CEO, reportedly were told about the making of fake credit accounts in customers’ names before the scandal broke, but chose either to ignore the complaints or cover up the misconduct. Where was HR, by the way? By ignoring complaints, employers exacerbate critical problems that need addressing.
With a history of alleged misconduct — and an apparent pattern of HR absenteeism when such misconduct occurs — Wells Fargo might avoid further public scrutiny by not appealing this latest settlement. This latest case is also another stark reminder of the critical role HR should play if misconduct of any kind is discovered at a company. There's been a lot of prognosticating in hindsight about how Wells Fargo should have managed its crisis, but one thing is clear: HR should have played a greater role.