Bank Employee Reports Suspected Fraud, Suffers Retaliation; OSHA Steps In

OSHA has ordered San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. to pay back wages and lost bonuses, with interest, and $25,000 in reputational damages to an employee who was wrongfully transferred after he questioned the legality of a co-worker's sales activities.

The action resulted from a whistleblower investigation conducted by OSHA's regional office in San Francisco. The investigation substantiated the employee's complaint that he was improperly transferred from one Bay Area bank branch to another in retaliation for alerting management that a co-worker violated Securities and Exchange Commission rules by recommending unsuitable investments to customers and encouraging them to purchase securities held by a separate company.

"It is vital that employees be able to raise fraud concerns to their employers without fear of retaliation," said Ken Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in San Francisco, whose office investigated the complaint. "This order reaffirms both the right of employees to raise concerns regarding violations of Securities and Exchange Commission rules and the Labor Department's commitment to take the necessary steps to protect that right."

In addition to requiring compensation be paid to the complainant, OSHA's order instructs Wells Fargo to immediately reassign the complainant to the original branch, to expunge the personnel file of references pertaining to the complaint, and to post a notice to employees in all California branches outlining employee whistleblower protections. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and 16 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at www.osha.gov/dep/oia/whistleblower/index.html.

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