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DOL Orders Wells Fargo to Pay $22M for Whistleblower Retaliation

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found Wells Fargo violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for improperly terminating a Chicago area–based senior manager.

Wells was ordered to pay the employee more than $22 million following an investigation by OSHA’s Chicago Regional Office initiated after receiving a complaint from the employee.  

The manager was terminated in 2019 after reporting that they were directed to falsify customer information and alleging that management was engaging in price fixing and interest rate collusion through exclusive dealing. Though Wells Initially provided no reason for the firing, the bank later alleged that it came as part of a restructuring process. However, investigators found the removal in question was not consistent with Wells Fargo’s treatment of other managers removed under that initiative.

“The evidence demonstrates Wells Fargo took retaliatory action against this senior manager for repeatedly expressing concerns about financial management they believed violated federal laws,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “The Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects employees from retaliation in these very circumstances and the Department of Labor will not tolerate employers who violate the law and illegally terminate workers that exercise their rights under the law.”

Wells Fargo decried OSHA’s findings in a statement, claiming they, “were not based on an evidentiary hearing.”

“We intend to appeal to an Administrative Law Judge. Wells Fargo has zero tolerance for acts of retaliation, and employees are encouraged to report concerns which will be promptly and thoroughly investigated.”

According to the announcement, both parties have 30 days from the receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before an administrative law judge. 

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