$23.00 donated in past month
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Labor & Workers
"A Culture of Corruption" The Obama Perez Legacy And The Wells Fargo Criminal Syndicate -
The criminal syndicate running Wells Fargo bank is likely to be indicted by a new San Francisco Federal Grand Jury. Wells Fargo executives have committed bank fraud and RICO and also colluded with corrupt OSHA DOL officials including Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez who also helped obstruct an investigation of the cover-up
"A Culture of Corruption" The Obama Perez Legacy And The Wells Fargo Criminal Syndicate -
Is The Collapse of Wells Fargo Coming In 2017?
By Steve Zeltzer
The growing criminal corruption scandal at Wells Fargo Bank, which opened up 2 million fake customer accounts and then retaliated against bank employee whistleblowers, is quickly spinning out of control with potentially catastrophic results for the bank and the world financial system. One of incoming President Trump's first actions, in fact, might have to be seizing the nation's 4th largest bank to prevent a complete collapse when millions of depositors find out that criminal indictments of the bank’s top officers are looming.
The likely targets of the federal Grand Jury that was empaneled by the Justice Department to explore what appears to be wide spread corruption include recently departed Wells Fargo CEO and Board Chairman John Stumpf.
Stumpf was given a pass by the Obama Administration’s Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and allowed to exit the bank with $100 million when he testified at a Congressional hearing on September 29, 2016, that he had no knowledge the over 2 million fake accounts had been created, even though Wells Fargo had bullied and eventually fired some 5,300 employees who had been coerced into creating the illegal accounts. Some of those employees had complained about the pressure and refused to bow to the pressure, and subsequently filed complaints with the Labor Department’s OSHA Office of Whistleblower Protection Program.
The effort by Wells Fargo employees to report the fraud to federal regulators was stymied when OSHA failed to take any action on their complaints that would have led to reporting them to the federal financial regulators. Questions have already surfaced as to how that happened, and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez promised in October to conduct a “top to bottom review” of OSHA’s management of these complaints. However, Perez never followed through on that promise and OSHA continues to bottle up Wells Fargo whistleblower complaints, some of which have languished for up to five years without action.
According to OSHA Regional Investigator, Darrell Whitman, he was given the Yesenia Guitron and Judi Klosek whistleblower complaints in late 2010 with an order to close them without an investigation. According to OSHA records, the two complaints had both been filed on May 11, 2010 and reported to Wells Fargo senior legal staff in Los Angeles shortly thereafter. Wells Fargo acknowledged receiving the complaints, but never offered a defense, which according to Whitman should have resulted in a quick merit finding and reports to federal regulators. Instead, it appears someone in OSHA management excused Wells Fargo from filing responses, apparently with assurances the complaints would not be investigated. That failure to investigate resulted in no notice of these reports of fraud being given to federal financial regulators. Whitman later in early 2012 was briefly assigned to another complaint of fraud similar to those made by Guitron and Klosek. That complaint was removed from Whitman only 3 weeks later, after he openly challenged OSHA’s management of whistleblower complaints. As of late 2016, that third case has been to be fully investigated, leaving both federal regulators and the complainant out in the cold.
In the wake of the public outcry about Wells Fargo, Congress held hearings in September and then asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into potential criminal activity associated with Wells Fargo’s practices. In early December, the Justice Department empaneled a federal Grand Jury in San Francisco and tasked it with reviewing evidence to determine whether there were grounds to indict. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California then issued a subpoena on December 12 to Ms. Guitron and Ms. Klosek, ordering them to produce all documents relevant to their work at Wells Fargo and to their legal complaints after they were terminated. The structure of the subpoena indicated that indictments could include not only Wells Fargo managers and senior officers, but also managers and officials in OSHA and the Department of Labor who were involved in concealing Wells Fargo complaints.
In addition to reporting potential fraud in Wells Fargo’s management of customer accounts, Guitron also reported a pattern in the creation of illegal accounts that particularly targeting Latinos who were being asked to sign documents that they could not read. These documents authorized Wells Fargo to set up fake accounts and/or create fake credit card application that were subsequently used to loot their accounts. Guitron and Klosek were both terminated by Wells Fargo in February 2010, and filed their complaints with OSHA because under federal law such complaints had to be reviewed by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program because they could take independent enforcement action. According to Guitron, who gave an extended interview that was broadcast by NBC Bay Area, she was never contacted by OSHA after filing her complaint, and never knew why OSHA failed to take any action. Had OSHA properly handled the Guitron and Klosek complaints, both of these whistleblowers would have been entitled to reinstatement with back pay well before OSHA closed them.
Wells Fargo workers described mental health nightmares associated with the pressure to open fake customer accounts. Susan Fischer, a former Wells Fargo branch manager in Arizona, said after experiencing "bullying, punishment and intimidation" at Wells Fargo, which impacted her self-esteem and mental health, she suffered "severe depression and anxiety". As Fischer observed, "The culture of corruption was not easy on managers”, who were pushed to pressure employees to open unauthorized accounts beginning in 2007. Ultimately, Fischer had to take medical leave and then resigned in 2008 due to the stress. "It was an extremely dark period for me," she said."
For Guitron, the story only different in detail. She and Klosek were immediately targeted by senior Wells Fargo management when they began to raise concerns about the fake accounts that were being created. These managers. responded to her whistleblowing by falsifying a paper trail that purported to document her poor performance, forbidding her from taking family medical leave, and then firing her. Once her case was dropped by OSHA, Guitron was forced to take her complaint to federal court, which she predictably lost. Federal courts have little expertise in whistleblower law and notoriously side with employers. Deprived of an OSHA investigation that could have developed strong evidence supporting her complaint, her attorney was left in a David and Goliath battle that few attorneys win.
The lynchpin of many of these cases was Darrell Whitman. Whitman - a lawyer and OSHA Regional Investigator with the Whistleblower Protection Program has systemically documented management wrongdoing. This includes dismissing complaints without any investigation, as in the three Wells Fargo cases he handled, but also collaborating with major corporations to prevent their accountability for violations of law. Whitman eventually became a whistleblower himself, offering interviews to various reporters and appearing on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. Whitman and four other Regional Investigators were forced out of there their jobs in 2015 after years of fighting corruption in the Whistleblower Protection Program. Whitman now has a complaint that is under review by the federal Office of Special Counsel. The complaint it accompanied by a 216-page affidavit and similar affidavits by more than 15 other federal workers and whistleblowers. The affidavit chronicles a five-year period during which Whitman says he watch more than 20 complaints mismanaged and improperly dismissed, many of them against powerful national corporations, including: FedEx, Lockheed Martin, PG&E, Test America (formerly owned by H.I.G. Capital), J.P. Morgan Chase, Country-Wide Financial, and Wells Fargo. As Whitman notes, these were small or isolated incidents, but involved very serious complaints about threats to worker and the public safety and health, national security, and systematic financial fraud.
In the case of Wells Fargo, Whitman says he is very skeptical about internal investigations of wrongdoing by federal officials. When he first began to report problems with OSHA Region IX, he was aggressively attacked by local management. When he escalated his concerns to the National Director of the Whistleblower Protection Program, first one and then another of the Directors were themselves removed for complaining about program mismanagement to OSHA Director, Dr. David Michaels. Then, in May 2014, Whitman went to the top, writing to Secretary Perez about the culture of corruption in OSHA. This last report led to a retaliatory investigation of Whitman and other OSHA investigators that laid the foundation for his termination and another investigator being fired and three other investigators leaving because of the severe hostility of OSHA management. He himself was ordered to falsify his reports by his manager and lawyer Josh Paul and was later bullied and fired.
Whitman is now seeking an independent and “credible” investigation of the Whistleblower Protection Program, and particularly of the role that OSHA chief David Michaels and Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez have played in attempting to insulate the program from accountability. His report to the Office of Special Council, which was first made in January 2015, has yet to produce any results, and his complaint to the OSC, first made in May 2015 after he was fired, has languished for lack of definitive action. Whitman is hopeful this most recent action by the Department of Justice and the Grand Jury may finally prompt meaningful questions and answers and bring to light how this program degenerated into a culture of corruption.
Whitman, who was a union steward representing his AFGE Local to the San Francisco Central Labor Council, has also sought the support of David Cox, the President of the American Federation of Government Employees. After some delay, President Cox Whitman responded by offering to support Whitman by assigning an AFGE attorney to assist in the case. But to date nothing has materialized, and Whitman has noted that the support has been at best lukewarm and largely concealed. After Perez promised to conduct a review of the Wells Fargo complaints handled by OSHA, an AFGE representative was appointed to assist in the review. But that too has faded as it appears Sectary Perez has abandoned his promise.
Meanwhile, the Wells Fargo case grows more explosive by the day. As investigations continue, they unravel a sorted tale of connections between Wells Fargo, major corporations and senior members of the Democratic Party. To the embarrassment of the Democratic Party, it arranged to hold its national convention in Philadelphia, housing it in the Wells Fargo Center. Wells Fargo also generously supported the conventions itself, making one of the largest corporate contributions. In another case, J.P. Morgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank by assets, was recently fined for pushing its own high-risk investments on clients without fully disclosing the bank’s financial interests. When Johnny Burris, a financial advisor working with the bank resisted, he was not only fired but J.P. Morgan Chase then conspired to have his license as a financial consultant revoked. After he was fired, Burris, filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, and then sent letters directly to Secretary Perez, copied to Senator Elisabeth Warren, among others. That appeared to draw some attention to his case, but his optimism was short-lived as OSHA once again seemed to lose interest in doing its job.
More recently, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have openly campaigned to have Tom Perez appointed as head of the Democratic Party, throwing their considerable political weight around the choice. Perez has long been identified as an Obama loyalist and a close friend of the Clintons. Yet, there is also considerable evidence that Perez has been personally involved in concealing corruption in OSHA, and may even now be a target of the Grand Jury. Certainly, Obama and the Clintons must be aware of these developments, in part because Whitman copied his May 2014 letter concerning a culture of corruption to President Obama, as well as other senior Democratic politicians. If it is found that Perez was involved in an obstruction of justice regarding Wells Fargo fraud and other corporate crimes, it will inevitably raise questions about his associations with Obama and the Clintons.
Eventually, the developing investigation of criminal activity involving Wells Fargo management will begin to take a toll not only on its retail customers, but also on its shareholders and business partners. Already, new questions have been raised about Wells Fargo attempting to fraudulently foist Prudential life insurance policies on its customers, and in the recent past the bank was forced into a settlement regarding defrauding student loan applicants. It is also now under pressure for failing its financial stress test, outlining how it can effectively deal with a financial crisis. It is already losing customers by the droves. This drumbeat of bad news is likely to be amplified by parallel reports of collusion between the bank and high-level politicians, with the scope of the criminal investigation of Wells Fargo growing steadily wider and deeper. It is hard to see any other end than a federal takeover of the bank especially when the customers start a run on this bank to save their money. Because it is one of those “too big to fail” banks, even Donald Trump may find it impossible to avoid this path because it is likely that Wells Fargo is not alone in this sea of corruption.
It should be turned over the post office where it could it could be run as a public bank for working people and run by postal workers but this is not obviously any part of the Trump agenda. In any case, get ready for more earthquakes in 2017 as the capitalist corruption crises deepens.
Steve Zeltzer is host of Pacifica KPFA WorkWeek Radio
workweek [at] kpfa.org
UPWA Steering Committee
Wells Fargo Faces Scrutiny for Black Marks on Ex-Employee Files "Some former employees say that Wells Fargo used that power to retaliate against those who tried to blow the whistle on the bank’s fraudulent activities."
By STACY COWLEY
NOV. 3, 2016
Timothy J. Sloan, Wells Fargo’s chief executive.CreditRichard Drew/Associated Press
Three senators fired at Wells Fargo’s new chief executive with fresh ammunition on Thursday: the hundreds of termination notices the bank filed with an industry overseer over the last five years as employees left the company in connection with its sales scandal.
When brokers and certain other registered representatives leave a bank — voluntarily or otherwise — the company is required to file a notice with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, known as Finra. Called a “U5,” the form includes a field where the bank must disclose any allegations that played a role in the employee’s departure.
A negative comment on a U5 is a scorching mark that can make it almost impossible to find another job in the banking field.
“It’s like being blackballed,” said Marc Schifanelli, a lawyer who specializes in Finra arbitration. “It can be a showstopper for a career.”
Some former employees say that Wells Fargo used that power to retaliate against those who tried to blow the whistle on the bank’s fraudulent activities.
To investigate these claims, three Democratic senators asked Finra for data on Wells Fargo’s U5 filings. The responses they received “paint a disturbing picture,” the senators wrote in a letter to Timothy J. Sloan, Wells Fargo’s chief executive, on Thursday. Mr. Sloan took over from John G. Stumpf, who abruptly retired last month after intense criticism of his handling of the bank’s crisis.
The U5 forms, the senators wrote, “confirm that Wells Fargo had ample information about the scope of fraudulent sales practices” long before it reached a settlement in September with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL
For years, Wells Fargo employees secretly set up fake accounts without customers’ consent.
• $185 Million FineRegulators said the illegal practices, first reported in 2013, reflected serious flaws. The bank fired 5,300 mostly low-level employees.
• Sales Goals, Broken Rules“They warned us about this type of behavior,” said an ex-worker, “but the reality was that people had to meet their goals.”
• Ex-Workers File Suits“These are the people who have been left holding the bag,” said a lawyer for the workers.
• Public WrathAngry customers and investors. Democrats and Republicans. State treasurers. Even Saturday Night Live lambasted the bank.
• Alarms Raised in 2005“Everybody knew there was fraud going on, and the people trying to flag it were the ones who got in trouble,” said a manager who was fired.
• C.E.O. Steps DownJohn Stumpf, who cultivated his image as a community banker, resigned. Wells Fargo had already announced a $41 million clawback and reshuffled its tops ranks.
• The New Boss“I remain concerned that incoming C.E.O. Tim Sloan is also culpable,” Representative Maxine Waters said.
• ‘Lions Hunting Zebras’The bank targeted immigrants who spoke little English and older adults with memory problems, ex-workers said.
“In addition,” the letter continued, “public reports indicate that Wells Fargo may have filed inaccurate or incomplete Form U5s for fired employees and that the bank may have done so to retaliate against whistle-blowers. If this is the case, then it would appear that Wells Fargo concealed key information from regulators.”
Wells Fargo acknowledged in September that it had fired 5,300 employees in the last five years for creating as many as two million bank and credit card accounts not authorized by customers. The disclosure provoked widespread outrage, touching off a scandal that has engulfed the bank in negative publicity and legal fallout.
Around 600 of those 5,300 fired workers were registered with Finra, but only 200 of them were specifically terminated for issues related to the sham accounts, according to the records Finra provided to lawmakers.
So why, the senators asked, didn’t Wells Fargo include negative marks in the other 400 employees’ files? That information could have helped Finra and other regulators detect a pattern of illegal activity much sooner, they wrote.
They also want to know if Wells Fargo used unfavorable U5 filings as a weapon against employees who tried to draw attention to the bank’s misdeeds.
Of the 18,000 U5 filings Wells Fargo submitted between 2011 and 2015, almost 20 percent indicated that the worker was “discharged” or “permitted to resign.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who are on the Senate Banking Committee, together with Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon signed the letter to Mr. Sloan, asking for many more details on those terminations and a response by Dec. 5.
Jennifer Greeson Dunn, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said that the bank had “zero tolerance for retaliation” and was looking into the former workers’ claims.
“As we already said in two congressional hearings, Wells Fargo has been working for years to stop wrongful sales practices behavior,” Ms. Dunn said. “We acknowledge we could have acted sooner and more aggressively.”
Wells Fargo has run into trouble before with its U5 filings.
In 2011, it paid a $1 million fine to Finra for failing to submit some of the forms on time. The same year, Finra ordered the bank to pay a former broker, Maxim Minevich, $500,000 for defaming him in a U5 filing. (Wells Fargo filed a petition to vacate the award. The case and other legal matters related to it were settled this year; Wells Fargo agreed to alter the information in Mr. Minevich’s U5.)
Some former workers say that Wells Fargo used the filings as a blunt instrument, with little regard for the damage that inaccurate or imprecise allegations could inflict on people’s careers.
Ivan Jerskey, who was fired by Wells Fargo in September, is fighting the bank about its filing on his departure.
Mr. Jerskey was a financial adviser in Marin County, Calif., for high-net-worth clients. He was fired, he said, for errors related to the creation of a new account for an older client whose two daughters had trustee powers over his finances.
Mr. Jerskey opened the account after obtaining only the primary client’s signature, in violation of a bank policy — one that employees were actively told to overlook, he said — requiring the signatures of all three trustees. Mr. Jerskey also checked off a box on an account form saying that he had met all three trustees “face to face,” even though he had not.
“It never occurred to me that I was doing this incorrectly,” he said. “It was completely common practice, not just with me but with everybody at the branch. That’s how we were told to do it by several managers and departments.”
Wells Fargo filed a U5 saying that Mr. Jerskey had opened the account “in violation of firm policies,” which may be technically true, Mr. Jerskey said, but it omits the fact that he was doing as his bosses instructed.
He is concerned that in Wells Fargo’s effort to clean house, people like him have become collateral damage. The negative entry in his file has complicated his search for a new job.
“It’s almost slander,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult to remove these kinds of records, and it sets off alarms. I think they’re just trying to make examples out of people.”
Wells Fargo declined to comment on Mr. Jerskey’s employment record.
Most former Wells Fargo employees do not have U5 filings. Only those who work as brokers and financial advisers are required to register with Finra.
Jonathan J. Delshad, a lawyer in Los Angeles who is representing former Wells Fargo employees in a case seeking class-action status, said the U5 issue affected only 20 or so of the 500 former workers who had contacted his office. But for those people, it is a life-altering problem, he said.
“There’s probably a lot of people out there with these black marks who don’t know,” he said. “People apply for new jobs and get denied somewhere in the process, and that’s how they find out.”
Negative U5 comments can effectively kill off a banker’s employability, said Mr. Schifanelli, the lawyer who handled Mr. Minevich’s case against Wells.
“Frankly, the success rate in challenging them is not very high, and if the financial analyst ultimately prevails, their career can be ruined by the gap in their résumé,” he said.
Mr. Minevich no longer works in the banking industry, Mr. Schifanelli said.
Wells Fargo Complaints Show Flaws In Federal Whistleblower Program and Retaliation Against OSHA Whistleblowers and Whistleblower Investigators in Whistleblower Protection Program WPP
FILE PHOTO -- Protestors gather outside the Wells Fargo & Co corporate campus in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
October 13, 2016
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former Wells Fargo & Co general manager Claudia Ponce de Leon filed a whistleblower complaint in December 2011 with federal labor regulators, alleging she was fired for telling superiors about employees opening unauthorized accounts.
Nearly five years later, she has not been interviewed by investigators at the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said her attorney Yosef Peretz.
Her complaint claiming retaliation by Wells Fargo for reporting potential misconduct is one of several dozens filed against the bank over the last 14 years, Reuters has found.
Their existence shows U.S. government regulators are still not meeting targets set by law — a problem that was also flagged in a critical internal report issued in September 2015.
As of Oct. 6, the agency had yet to close out 34 of the 91 complaints it has received since fiscal year 2002 from Wells Fargo employees alleging they faced retaliation after reporting potential wrongdoing, according to department data obtained through a Reuters public records request. The department did not disclose details of the claims or the dates they were filed, and it remained unclear how many were related to the ongoing scandal involving Wells staffers opening as many as 2 million accounts without customer permission. It is also unclear how those 91 complaints against Wells Fargo compares with other corporations.
The bank last month agreed to pay $190 million in fines and customer restitution in a settlement with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and other regulators.
In late September, Reuters identified Ponce de Leon and at least four other former Wells Fargo employees who reported to OSHA between 2009 and 2014 that they were fired for raising concerns about the opening of unauthorized accounts and credit cards. Of the five OSHA complaints seen by Reuters, Ponce de Leon’s case has been pending since December 2011, and another 2014 case was initially dismissed by an OSHA investigator on grounds that were later reversed on appeal by a Labor Department administrative law judge. The bank ultimately reached a settlement with the employee in 2015.
The three other complaints – one in 2009 and two in 2010 – were transferred to state and federal courts, respectively.
One employee of the Labor Department involved with the cases has since filed his own whistleblower claim against the agency, alleging his office has a history of mishandling cases. His complaint does not reference the Wells Fargo complaints specifically.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that whistleblowers contacted OSHA as early as 2009 about potential fraud at Wells Fargo, and yet these government bureaucrats failed to do their job,” said Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who has been looking into how Wells Fargo’s sales practices have impacted small business owners.
Labor Department Secretary Thomas Perez said last month that the department has launched a “top-to-bottom” review of prior Wells Fargo whistleblower complaints.
Agency spokesman Jesse Lawder said it is the department’s policy not to comment on specific whistleblower cases, but said the review aims to “ensure whistleblowers receive the protections and remedies afforded them.”
Richele Messick, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, could not comment on individual cases, but said the bank “does not tolerate retaliation against team members who report their concerns and will take measures to protect team members from retaliation.”
From fiscal year 2005 through 2015, less than two percent of all whistleblower complaints filed with OSHA were won on the merits, federal statistics show. The rest were either settled, dismissed or transferred to federal courts. Lawyers who represent whistleblowers say OSHA investigators face challenges. One problem is the “crushing case load,” which can lead to significant delays, said attorney Jason Zuckerman.
OSHA, which received 3,288 whistleblower cases in fiscal year 2015, currently has 88 full-time investigators across the country in 10 regional offices.
OSHA refers whistleblower complaints to the relevant federal regulators to investigate. But the office does not always refer them promptly, or sometimes at all, the Labor Department’s inspector general found last year.
An earlier audit in September 2010 found that 80 percent of complaints it reviewed were not properly investigated, meaning OSHA staff did not take steps such as interviewing the employee, obtaining a witness list or allowing the employee to refute the employer’s defense. The subsequent audit in September 2015 noted improvements, finding that 18 percent of complaints reviewed failed to meet certain investigative criteria. Still, it also found that 72 percent of all of OSHA’s investigations were not performed within the 30, 60 or 90-day time frames specified by various whistleblower protection laws.
OSHA disputed some of those findings at the time, saying the audit relied on “inaccurate data” to determine how well it referred cases to other regulators.
Labor Department spokeswoman Amanda McClure said OSHA’s practice is to send copies of complaints when it receives them and its findings at the conclusion of the investigation to either the Securities and Exchange Commission or the CFPB, depending on which federal whistleblower law applies.
It is not clear whether OSHA, which received complaints of the unauthorized account openings at Wells Fargo dating at least as far as 2009, referred the matters to federal banking regulators, such as the CFPB and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
The CFPB, a new agency launched in July 2011, has said it did not start investigating the issue until it received tips from whistleblowers in mid-2013.
The OCC has said it first learned about the issues after it received a “small number” of complaints from consumers and bank employees in March 2012. Those complaints and media reports in December 2013 led the regulator to step up its supervision of Wells Fargo.
An SEC spokeswoman declined to comment on whether OSHA had referred the complaints about Wells Fargo’s sales practices. A CFPB spokesman declined to comment on whether the office had received any OSHA referrals involving Wells sales abuses.
SITTING IN A STACK OF FILES
Darrell Whitman – a former OSHA investigator in the San Francisco office from 2010-2015 – was assigned to three of the five cases examined by Reuters from former Wells Fargo employees alleging retaliation for reporting improper sales tactics. Whitman said he only briefly dealt with Ponce de Leon’s 2011 case before it was transferred to another investigator, and he was instructed to close the two 2010 cases because they were slated to be transferred to a federal court.
Another investigator assigned at one point to Ponce de Leon’s case, Susan Kamlet, told Reuters the case sat in a stack of other files and that her manager controlled which cases had priority.
Now the former OSHA investigators are making their own claims of retaliation.
Whitman alleges he was fired for raising concerns about the agency’s mishandling of whistleblower complaints, and Kamlet says she was fired for supporting his accounts and for raising concerns about a particular case she was investigating.
Whitman has since filed a whistleblower complaint of his own with the Office of Special Counsel, an office that investigates retaliation against federal employees.
His complaint is still pending.
The Labor Department spokeswoman and the Office of Special Counsel declined to comment.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Edward Tobin)
5,300 Wells Fargo employees fired over 2 million phony accounts
by Matt Egan @mattmegan5
September 9, 2016: 8:08 AM ET
Wells Fargo fires 5,300 for creating phony accounts
Everyone hates paying bank fees. But imagine paying fees on a ghost account you didn't even sign up for.
That's exactly what happened to Wells Fargo customers nationwide.
On Thursday, federal regulators said Wells Fargo (WFC) employees secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts -- without their customers knowing it -- since 2011.
The phony accounts earned the bank unwarranted fees and allowed Wells Fargo employees to boost their sales figures and make more money.
"Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses," Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said in a statement.
Wells Fargo confirmed to CNNMoney that it had fired 5,300 employees over the last few years related to the shady behavior. Employees went so far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the CFPB said.
Related: Who owns Wells Fargo? You, me and Warren Buffett
The scope of the scandal is shocking. An analysis conducted by a consulting firm hired by Wells Fargo concluded that bank employees opened over 1.5 million deposit accounts that may not have been authorized.
The way it worked was that employees moved funds from customers' existing accounts into newly-created ones without their knowledge or consent, regulators say. The CFPB described this practice as "widespread." Customers were being charged for insufficient funds or overdraft fees -- because there wasn't enough money in their original accounts.
Additionally, Wells Fargo employees also submitted applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without their customers' knowledge or consent. Roughly 14,000 of those accounts incurred over $400,000 in fees, including annual fees, interest charges and overdraft-protection fees.
The CFPB said Wells Fargo will pay "full restitutions to all victims."
Related: ATM and overdraft fees top $6 billion at the big 3 banks
Wells Fargo is being slapped with the largest penalty since the CFPB was founded in 2011. The bank agreed to pay $185 million in fines, along with $5 million to refund customers.
"We regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request," Wells Fargo said in a statement.
Wells Fargo has the highest market valuation among any bank in America, worth just north of $250 billion. Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA), the investment firm run legendary investor Warren Buffett, is the company's biggest shareholder.
Of the total fines, $100 million will go toward the CFPB's Civil Penalty Fund, $35 million will go to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and another $50 million will be paid to the City and County of Los Angeles.
"One wonders whether (the CFPB) penalty of $100 million is enough," said David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor and former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "It sounds like a big number, but for a bank the size of Wells Fargo, it isn't really."
Wells Fargo confirmed to CNNMoney that the 5,300 firings took place over several years. The bank listed 265,000 employees as of the end of 2015.
Related: Barclays fined $109 million for trying to hide a deal with rich clients
"At Wells Fargo, when we make mistakes, we are open about it, we take responsibility, and we take action," the bank said in a memo to employees on Thursday.
The CFPB declined to comment on when the investigation began and what sparked it, citing agency policy. "We don't comment on how we uncover these matters," a spokesman said.
As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo needs to make changes to its sales practices and internal oversight.
Customers are fuming. Brian Kennedy, a Maryland retiree, told CNNMoney he detected an unauthorized Wells Fargo account had been created in his name about a year ago. He asked Wells Fargo about it and the bank closed it, he said.
"I didn't sign up for any bloody checking account," Kennedy, who is 57 years old, told CNNMoney. "They lost me as a banking customer and I have warned family and friends."
"Consumers must be able to trust their banks," said Mike Feuer, the Los Angeles City Attorney who joined the settlement.
Feuer's office sued Wells Fargo in May 2015 over allegations of unauthorized accounts. After filing the suit, his office received more than 1,000 calls and emails from customers as well as current and former Wells Fargo employees about the allegations.
Wells Fargo declined to say when it hired a consulting firm to investigate the allegations. However, a person familiar with the matter told CNNMoney the bank launched the review after the L.A. lawsuit was filed.
Even though the Wells Fargo scandal took place nationally, the settlement with L.A. requires the bank to specifically alert all its California customers to review their accounts and shut down ones they don't recognize or want.
"How does a bank that is supposed to have robust internal controls permit the creation of over a half-million dummy accounts?" asked Vladeck. "If I were a Wells Fargo customer, and fortunately I am not, I'd think seriously about finding a new bank."
--To reach the author of this article email Matt.Egan [at] cnn.com
CNNMoney (New York)
First published September 8, 2016: 3:07 PM ET
The Obama administration allowed a pass for Wells Fargo CEO John G. Stumpf to leave the bank with $100 million after he admitted that the bank had set up 2 million fake accounts including 900,000 in California. He lied to Congress about knowing about the fake accounts since employees had contacted him and the top legal department of Wells Fargo knew about the illegal retaliation.