Wells Fargo’s Senior Management Must Be Held Responsible for Bank Fraud

A few years ago, I opened an account at a local branch of Wells Fargo Bank for a limited purpose. Once that purpose was accomplished, I intended to immediately close the account.

A young bank officer who facilitated the transaction persuaded me to keep the account open. He assured me that he had set up my account in such a way that I would never lose the account balance of $100 deposit through the churning of bank fees.

Of course, in less than a year, all the money was gone, usurped by Wells Fargo in bank fees. Meanwhile, I was assaulted  with notices, offers and credit card applications. One paper in this mountain of paperwork probably contained an obtuse notice that my account was being transferred to a different charge-bearing vehicle. I complained to the bank, which said it was my fault, and then I put the matter behind me, chalking it up to yet another example of pervasive and persistent financial bank fraud in America.

So this week, it was with interest that I read about the Wells Fargo’s practice of using unrealistic sales goals to pressure employees to set up phony accounts and cheat customers. The bank has fired 5,300 employees for ethical violations and announced it would eliminate all product sales goals in retail banking, effective January 1, 2017.

Seriously?

Remember the financial crisis of 2007, which propelled the world into a deep recession, from which many will never recover?  How much of the Wall Street meltdown was due to unethical practices promulgated by massive financial institutions ( like Wells Fargo) which required workers to lie,  cheat, and steal  in order to remain on the payroll?

Why is John Stumpf, Chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, still working there?

Senior management of Wells Fargo is responsible for the fraud on its customers, not the underlings with families to feed in an unforgiving economy.  The bank employees who were fired for ethical violations are culpable and shouldn’t be working in a position of trust. But Wells Fargo created the incentive for the unethical behavior  of its employees by adopting unrealistic sales goals to increase profits year after year.  Indeed,  Wells Fargo plans to continue enforcing these “product sales goals” until January 2017.

If America permits the senior management of Wells Fargo  to scapegoat its own employees and avoid responsibility for financial fraud, aren’t we inviting another financial meltdown?  Haven’t we learned anything?

Wells Fargo CEO John Stump needs to go. IMMEDIATELY!

Wells Fargo & Company, headquartered in San Francisco, is one of the nation’s biggest banks. It has $1.9 trillion in assets and, according to the company, serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 27 on Fortune’s 2016 rankings of America’s largest corporations.

Rough Justice? Case Filed a Day Late

What a difference a day makes.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Ohio recently upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by an IRS criminal investigator in 2012 who charged he was denied several promotions because he is a white male. The grounds for dismissal were that Frank Rembisz filed his civil rights lawsuit one day after the expiration of a 90-day statute of limitations.

Here’s what happened.

Rembisz filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Treasury Department that he was denied several promotions because he is a white male. The Treasury Department mailed him and his attorney a “final notice” that his complaint was denied on March 15, 2013. Rembisz had 90-days after receipt of the final notice of dismissal to file a civil lawsuit in federal court.

Rembisz filed his lawsuit on June 21, 2013 and the Treasury Department filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was filed after the expiration of the 90-day statute of limitations.

Rembisz argued that the case was timely filed because the clock did not start ticking until his attorney received the final notice on March 25, 2013.

A three-judge panel on the appeals court disagreed  and affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss Rembisz’ case.

The appeals court wrote that its “presume(s)” the 90-day limitations term began running on the fifth day following the mailing of the right to sue notice. Moreover, the appeals court said the statute of limitations is triggered when the complainant – not his or her attorney – receives the final notice.

Rembisz  also submitted an affidavit from his attorney’s secretary stating that she received the Treasury Department’s notice that Rembisz complaint had been denied on March 22, 2013.

But the appeals court said “that still makes his complaint late by one day.”

The case is Rembisz v. Lew, No. 15-2279 (6th Cir. 2016).

Tipping Point for Age Discrimination in Hiring?

There suddenly are several class action lawsuits pending in federal court that could potentially bring an end to decades of epidemic and unaddressed age discrimination in hiring in the United States.

We may be at a key tipping point.

These cases include:

  • In June 2012,  Richard M. Villarreal filed a federal age discrimination lawsuit in federal court in Gainesville, GA, against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., after learning that Reynolds, working with national staffing agencies, used “resume review guidelines” to weed out the applications of older workers. Villarreal was 49 when he filed the first of a half-dozen applications to work as a territory manager for Reynolds from 2007 to 2010.

The resume review guidelines specified that “desired” candidates had “2-3 years out of college” and told recruiters to “stay away from” candidates with eight to 10 years of experience. Villarreal’s resume and the resumes of hundreds of other older job applicants were dumped into a digital trash can without consideration.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta last year split from other federal circuits and ruled  that job applicants can file lawsuits under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) challenging employer policies and practices that discriminate against older job applicants. These are called disparate impact lawsuits. Reynolds appealed that 2-1 decision to the full court, which in February vacated the panel’s decision  and agreed to rehear the case “en banc” (with the full court sitting in judgment). Oral arguments are scheduled for June 21.  The case was originally fled by attorney John J. Almond of Rogers & Hardin, Atlanta.

  • In April 2015, software engineer Robert Heath filed an age discrimination lawsuit  against Google, Inc. in San Jose. Heath was interviewed but not hired for a position at Google in 2011 when he was 60-years-of-age. The lawsuit alleges Google has demonstrated a pattern and practice of violating the Age Discrimination in Employment Act )ADEA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

According to the lawsuit, the median age of Google’s 28,000 employees in 2013 was 29 while the median age  for computer programmers in the United States is 42.8 and the median age for software developers is 40.6. The parties are wrangling about whether the case will proceed as a class action under FEHA. The  case was originally filed by attorney Daniel L. Low of  Kotchen & Low, Washington, DC.

  • In April 2016, certified public accountant, Steve Rabin, 53,  filed an age discrimination complaint in federal court in San Francisco against Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), a global accounting and auditing firm with gross revenues exceeding $35 billion. Rabin was rejected in 2013 for a position at PwC , which allegedly relies almost exclusively upon campus recruiting to fill entry-level positions and does not post vacancies on its public web site. The only way to apply is through PwC’s “Campus track recruitment tool, which requires a college affiliation.”  PwC  also maintains a mandatory early retirement policy that requires partners to retire by age 60 which allegedly discourages the hiring of  experienced older applicants.

The average age of PwC’s workforce in 2011 was 27, while the median age of accountants and auditors in the United States was 43.2 years old. The lawsuit alleges that PwC’s policies have a disparate impact on older applicants, which means . The lawsuit does not involve PwC’s hiring of executives.  This case was filed by attorneys from the New York firm of Outten & Golden, the AARP Foundation Litigation, and the San Francisco firm, The Liu Law Firm, P.C.

The EEOC also has filed a couple of individual cases in recent months involving age discrimination in hiring.

In my groundbreaking book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace, I show that older workers for years have been disproportionately represented in the ranks of the long-term unemployed. Meanwhile, employers and employment agencies post job advertisements that obviously intend to exclude older workers, using code terms like “seeking digital natives” or “only recent graduates.” Until now, the obvious and rampant nature of age discrimination, especially in hiring, has gone virtually unchallenged.

The New Overtime Rule

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a final rule today changing the white collar overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The final rule, which goes into effect on December 16, will:

  • Raise the  salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year), ensuring protections to 4.2 million workers; and,
  • The salary threshold will be automatically updated every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability.

This is a big achievement for the U.S. Department of Labor, which has had a decidedly mixed record under the Obama administration, and will benefit millions of low-paid workers – many of whom are women.

For now, white collar workers who earn more than $47,476 per year can still be subjected to merciless exploitation by their  corporate overlords.

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