The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ordered Wells Fargo to pay $5.4 million and reinstate a former bank manager who blew the whistle on suspected fraudulent behavior in 2010.
The manager was “abruptly dismissed” from Wells Fargo after reporting separate incidents of suspected bank, mail and wire fraud at his branch in the Los Angeles area in 2010, according to a press release from the Department of Labor Monday.
In the largest-ever individual award by the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program, Wells Fargo was ordered to compensate the manager not only for his lost earnings during his time outside of the banking industry, but also for compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
“We are aware of OSHA’s preliminary order and take seriously the concerns of current and former team members,” Vince Scanlon, a Wells Fargo spokesperson, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “To date there has been no hearing on the merits in this case, and we will be requesting a full hearing of the matter,” Scanlon asserted.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program protects employees from retaliation for reporting fraudulent or illegal activity as prescribed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. According to the law, someone must file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the alleged reprisal, meaning that the case has been in the government’s hands for over six years.
Seven key witnesses were involved in the case, and the investigative process can be long and arduous. Coordinating schedules, additional documentation requests and legal complexities can exacerbate the process of investigating a whistleblower case.
“OSHA is continuing to look for ways to streamline the investigative process for whistleblower complaints so that it doesn’t take up to seven years, as was the case under the previous administration,” an official with the Department of Labor told TheDCNF, pointing to this case as an example.
OSHA has helped nearly 7,000 whistleblowers either return to work or recover damages since 2006.
News of the ruling comes as Wells Fargo continues to recover from a widely reported accounting scandal that rocked the bank in September. More than 5,000 employees were fired after federal regulators discovered millions of fake bank and credit card accounts set up for customers without their knowledge.
The phony accounts helped employees reach sales figures and qualify for bonuses. The bank was also able to collect fees from the unauthorized accounts. The OSHA ruling was unrelated to the widely reported accounting scandal.
The banking giant can appeal the decision to an administrative law judge.
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