Banking giant Wells Fargo can’t stay out of the news. First came an infamous case of fraud. Now OSHA has taken aim at the bank.
Two weeks ago, former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was forced to return another $28 million he pocketed when he retired in the wake of a 2016 scandal in which employees set up more than 2 million phony accounts. That’s on top of the $41 million the Wells Fargo board of directors clawed back from Stumpf last October.
In addition, the former head of Wells Fargo’s community banking unit has been retroactively terminated for cause and will lose $47 million.
The bank’s board held the two executives personally responsible for the fraud, in which more than 5,000 employees opened 1.5 million checking or savings accounts and more than 564,0000 credit card accounts in the names of existing bank patrons—all without customers’ permission and in violation of multiple federal laws.
Compared to all that, an OSHA whistleblower award issued in mid-April must have seemed like pocket change to Wells Fargo—a mere $5.4 million. That’s how much OSHA made the bank give to an as-yet unnamed manager who was fired for allegedly reporting suspicions of fraudulent behavior. (He got his job back, too.)
This is an entirely new fraud, unrelated to the fake account scandal. OSHA explained that it believed the manager had been punished for reporting irregularities under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In retaliation, the bank allegedly placed negative information about the manager in the nationwide security database on bank managers. That meant he would be unable to secure another banking job.
Lesson learned: All this should be a powerful reminder that ignoring whistleblowers and punishing their actions can cause massive headaches down the road.