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Wells Fargo ordered to pay more than $22 million to fired whistleblower

Wells Fargo

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered Wells Fargo & Co. to pay more than $22 million to a former executive whom the bank allegedly fired for reporting financial misconduct, the agency said Thursday.

Wells Fargo said in a statement it plans to appeal.

OSHA found that Wells Fargo violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s whistleblower provisions when it terminated the senior manager, who had repeatedly voiced concerns to area managers and the corporate ethics line about conduct the manager believed violated relevant financial laws, including wire fraud.

The manager expressed concerns about being directed to falsify customer information and alleged that management was engaged in price fixing and interest rate collusion through exclusive dealing, the statement said.

The employee, who was fired in 2019, had filed a complaint with OSHA, alleging retaliation under the Sarbanes Oxley Act, the 2002 law that was intended to improve auditing and public disclosure.

OSHA said that after first failing to provide reasons for the termination, Wells Fargo later said the manager was terminated as part of a restructuring process.

But investigators found the termination was inconsistent with the bank’s treatment of other managers removed under the initiative.

The award includes back wages, interest, lost bonuses and benefits, front pay and compensatory damages.

Wells Fargo said in its statement that it disagreed with OSHA’s findings, which, it said, “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.”