The Law Firm of Piacentile, Stefanowski & Malherbe LLP

Wells Fargo’s former employee files a whistleblower claim

Diana Duenas-Brown, a branch manager who worked for US bank Wells Fargo & Co. has recently filed a federal whistleblower claim against her former employer. According to the woman’s claim, her supervisors harassed her after she warned them about the illegal sale schemes and fraudulent activity perpetrated by some of her colleagues. 

The bank recently fired more than 5,300 employees that were involved in a giant financial fraud that cost the company $190 million in fines. U.S. regulators found that a number of accountants who tried to meet internal sales goals opened over 2 million credit cards and unauthorized bank accounts without customers’ explicit consent. According to Reuters, Wells Fargo is taking action against all those employees that participated in the scandal and opted out from its policy on product sales quotas. 

image of an old building

The qui tam relator who worked for the embattled bank for the last 14 years, found 25 total instances of unlawful sales activities in her district. However, when she reported her supervisor that those deceptive practices harmed many Wells Fargo customers, she was subjected to whistleblower retaliation. In her lawsuit, Duenas-Brown claims that the bank’s upper level managers were fully aware of these illegal activities, and even promoted them for years hoping to increase its own profits. In 2016, in fact, the bank lost up to 44 percent total account openings compared to 2015. 

Since Duenas-Brown’s report put the whole fraudulent scheme at risk, and the bank was going through a financially rough period, the former branch manager’s supervisors started retaliating against her, subjecting her to discrimination over the course of 10 months in 2014. She was relieved of her management duties, received poor performance evaluations, was reported to human resources and eventually fired in March 2015. According to her lawsuit, the woman now holds the bank liable for her monetary losses, psychological damage, and loss of reputation. 

Article written by: Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D. 

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