A former employee of Wells Fargo says she was fired for refusing to participate in a national scam, and now she's suing the banking giant.
Melinda Bini was a former assistant vice president and regional private banker at a branch in Highland Park, New Jersey, according to NJ.com.
In a lawsuit filed on April 5 in Middlesex Superior Court, Bini said that her supervisors ordered her to sell banking products that were not in the customer's best interest and to change customers' account information without telling them. Bini claims that when she wouldn't participate in the scam, Wells Fargo retaliated against her and eventually fired her. The former employee is suing to get her job back and for damages, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Bini's lawsuit is related to a much larger banking scandal.
In September of 2016, Wells Fargo settled fines from the U.S. Consumer Protection Bureau and state agencies for $185 million, after it was revealed that employees opened 2 million unauthorized accounts to falsely increase their sales numbers between 2011 and 2016.
“Wells Fargo employees secretly opened unauthorized accounts to hit sales targets and receive bonuses,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a September press release. “Because of the severity of these violations, Wells Fargo is paying the largest penalty the CFPB has ever imposed. Today’s action should serve notice to the entire industry that financial incentive programs, if not monitored carefully, carry serious risks that can have serious legal consequences.”
More than 5,000 employees were fired over the scam, but critics said the bosses should have faced greater punishment.
The terminated employees were reportedly under pressure to make sales goals. When questioned in September by members of the House Financial Services Committee, CEO John Stumpf said that the company was reviewing allegations about the alleged firings.
“My understanding is that people should not be fired, terminated for missing sales goals,” Stumpf said in the hearing. “I’m not saying it didn’t happen. We’re doing a review of whatever, whoever might have been terminated for that.”
Stumpf would eventually step down at Wells Fargo — taking a healthy pension package with him — following a month of bad publicity brought on by hearings conducted by both the House and the Senate, the latter of which included a grilling by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
However as Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) pointed out at the House hearings, the damage to the fired employees has already been done. “You fired 5,300 people,” Sherman said to Stumpf at the hearing. “You took 5,300 good Americans and turned them into felons.”