NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - A private U.S. regulator launched a hotline on Friday to hear from ex-Wells Fargo & Co employees who were fired for allegedly opening unauthorized accounts after news reports that the bank may have retaliated by terminating whistleblowers in the scandal.
Federal regulators ordered the San Francisco-based bank to pay $190 million in fines and restitution in September because they said its high pressure sales environment pushed employees to open 2 million deposit and credit card accounts without customers’ permission.
The bank said that it fired 5,300 workers involved in the sales scandal. Because about 200 of those employees were licensed to sell securities, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the securities industry’s self-regulator.
A handful of Wells Fargo employees have sued the bank or filed complaints with regulators saying that they were fired only after they reported on the bogus accounts.
In a letter last month to Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer Tim Sloan, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Ron Wyden and Robert Menendez said that evidence they received from FINRA showed that the bank may have filed defamatory statements to retaliate against the employees for questioning the sales tactics.
Financial firms are required to notify FINRA when they terminate securities brokers and to describe why the employee was fired.
The descriptions in the documents can have sweeping impacts on a worker’s ability to get hired elsewhere, and employees are supposed to be able to review the document before it is submitted to FINRA. (Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts; additional reporting by Dan Freed; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)