If you thought that last fall’s revelation on their abysmal fake account practices - a topic Pink Slip very much enjoyed - was all that Wells Fargo had in store for us, scandal-wise, in the trunks of their stagecoaches, you’d be mistaken. Apparently, they’ve got three other something specials out there for us to enjoy.
They’ve been going after whistleblowers: You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together, and blow. Well, at Wells Fargo some of the folks who channeled their inner Lauren Bacall and reported bad behavior on the company ethics hotline have been fired. We know this because the new CEO, Tim Sloan, revealed last week that there’s been some retaliation. He admitted that:
The bank had hired a third party to investigate instances over the last five years where an employee was fired within 12 months of calling the hotline. Often, lateness or some other trivial reason would be concocted to justify terminating a worker, according to a report in CNNMoney. The bank is now expanding the investigation, looking at the penalties some employees faced for whistleblowing that fell short of termination. (Source: Fortune)
This sort of retaliation is illegal. At least up to know. It may become mandatory in the brave new world. Keep in mind that the statement “off with their whistle-blowing lips” contains fewer than 140 characters.
They were warning branches when watchdogs were due in: Looks like the phony account scandal was able – make that enabled – to last as long as it did because:
…management and employees at the bank’s branches across the country had at least 24 hours warning about when internal watchdogs were scheduled to come and perform inspections checking the validity and integrity of account handling, according to the Wall Street Journal.
This head’s upping meant that employees had time to get rid of evidence of wrongdoing and make sure that their forged signatures were in order. That sure took some of the bark over the old watchdogs. Almost as good as tossing them a poisoned bone.
They screwed with customers so they could charge them bogus late fees: Some employees have claimed that the bank used stalling tactics on customers who were trying to extend their promised interest rates. By requiring customers to fill in nonsense paperwork and provide the bank with nonsense documents, the bank was able to make sure that they didn’t meet their deadlines. Penalty time!
The scam typically cost customers $1,000 to $1,500, depending on how big the loan was.
A grand there, a grand there, and pretty soon it all adds up. This particular scam seems to have been limited to the LA region. Still, the whistleblower who blew the whistle on it believes that this may have turned into millions of dollars that customers were screwed out of.
Just in case you believe there’s no justice in the world, the world is punishing Wells Fargo, big time:
The number of new checking accounts opened at the bank dropped 40% from a year earlier, with applications for credit cards falling 43%, leading to a 14% drop in profits.
Unfortunately, we know that this will trickle down to the little guys, including the employees of the 400 branches that will be closing across the country.
Meanwhile, the Bank has “formed a new ethics office.”
Sounds like they could use one.