In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

Wells Fargo Misled Customers, Whistleblower Claims

Sometimes when you read the news, you can see the lawsuits coming.

Like the latest whistleblower suit against Wells Fargo. The former head of the bank's foreign-exchange group claims he was fired right before he was scheduled to tell government regulators about allegedly "false and misleading" sales practices at the company.

The lawsuit follows a Wall Street Journal report that federal prosecutors were investigating foreign-exchange trading at the beleagured bank. For general counsel, sometimes it's about knowing what's happening before it hits the news.

Foreign Exchange Issue

Wells Fargo knew Simon Fowles would be a problem. The company let him go, along with three other employees on a foreign exchange deal last October.

"Wells Fargo learned of an issue associated with a foreign exchange transaction for a single client," bank spokeswoman Elise Wilkinson told Reuters at the time. "The matter was reviewed, the client was promptly notified regarding the issue and Wells Fargo leadership took steps to hold accountable the individuals who were involved."

Fowles tells a different story in his whistleblower suit. He claims the company encouraged employees to "make false and misleading representations to customers, to engage in abusive sales practices, and to enrich themselves at the expense of clients."

He says he complained to managers and senior executives about it for years, but it did no good. The last straw broke when he told management he was going to the U.S. Office of the Controller of Currency; they fired him.

$185 Million Problem

Wells Fargo has been groaning under a $185 million fine since 2016, when it accepted responsibility for opening up about 1.5 million fake accounts without customer consent.

Consumer litigation followed, along with investigations into its wealth-management and auto-lending businesses.

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