Blowing The Whistle On Wells Fargo & J.P. Morgan Yesenia Guitron & Johnny Burris Speak Out
Yesenia Guitron who was was a teller at the Wells Fargo bank in St. Helena, California and Johnny Burris who was a J.P. Morgan Financial Advisor in Sun City Arizona both were bullied and terminated for blowing the whistle on criminal activity by these large national banks. They both also filed complaints to OSHA and OSHA stalled and refused to investigate in the the case of Yesenia Guitron. The government still refused to prosecute the managers and executives who were committing illegal activities and engaged in a RICO to cover-up their violation of banking, fraud and other violations of the law.
They spoke at the San Francisco Workers Memorial Day meeting at ILWU Local 34 and the meeting was sponsored by Injured Workers National Network IWNN.
JPMorgan said it will appeal the finding, which awarded Johnny Burris $64,400 in back wages and $100,000 for reputational damage, pain and suffering. The finding by an investigator for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was released on Tuesday.
OSHA, which is part of the Labor Department, said there was “reasonable cause” to conclude that JPMorgan’s decision to terminate Burris resulted in part from employee behavior protected under the anti-retaliation provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. An appeal would be considered by an administrative law judge.
“Mr. Burris previously raised these same claims to a Finra panel, with the same basic evidence, and the claims were denied,” JPMorgan spokeswoman Patricia Wexler said in an e-mailed statement. She was referring to a 2014 ruling by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s industry-funded brokerage regulator, that he wasn’t wrongfully dismissed. “We look forward to presenting our case in the next step of this process and putting this to rest.”
Burris disputes the validity of the Finra ruling. The arbitrators made their decision based on a client complaint that OSHA later found to have been written by a JPMorgan manager, Burris said. OSHA found that the same manager turned two more oral complaints into written ones after Burris was terminated.
Under the OSHA finding, JPMorgan would have to clear that complaint and expunge his industry employment record, known as a U5. It would also have to pay him reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Burris expressed dissatisfaction with the OSHA decision. “They ruled in my favor but tried to limit the damages to the bank,” he said. OSHA’s San Francisco office, which handled the case, didn’t respond to a request seeking comment on the finding.
Burris isn’t the only former JPMorgan adviser to complain of retaliation. A trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 23 in Manhattan federal court in the case of Jennifer Sharkey, a former JPMorgan wealth manager who alleges that the bank fired her in violation of Sarbanes-Oxley whistle-blower protections after she recommended that it investigate whether a wealthy client was involved in illegal activity. Last September, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed an earlier dismissal of the case and sent it back to the lower court.
Last June, a Finra arbitration panel found that JPMorgan had defamed three former New Jersey wealth managers by falsely amending their employment records. The bank was ordered by the arbitrators to expunge the advisers’ records.
Burris began working as a Chase Private Client adviser in Sun City West, Arizona, in June 2010. Shortly afterward, he started voicing complaints internally about being pressured by managers to sell more of the bank’s products to his elderly clientele, even if there were better investment options for them. Burris also provided information about his concerns to the New York Times, which featured him in a March 2013 article.
In the ensuing months, Burris’s managers frequently discussed how he was selling a low percentage of JPMorgan-managed products, according to OSHA’s written finding. Burris was fired by the bank in November 2012. A JPMorgan manager went outside firm procedure, turned an oral customer complaint into a written one and required Burris to list it on his employment record, “likely blacklisting him and causing him reputational harm,” according to the OSHA finding.
(Updates with additional complaint letters in fifth paragraph.)
Federal Prosecutors Investigating Wells Fargo Over Sales Practices
A former Wells Fargo employee from the Bay Area has been subpoenaed to provide documents as part of grand jury investigation.
By Liz Wagner
Federal prosecutors in San Francisco are investigating Wells Fargo over its sales practices, and documents obtained by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit reveal a former employee from the Napa Valley has been subpoenaed to provide material to a grand jury.
Federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena to a former Wells Fargo employee from the Napa Valley for material related to the bank’s sales tactics.
According to a grand jury subpoena obtained by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California ordered Yesenia Guitron to provide all documents obtained during her employment involving Wells Fargo’s sales practices.
The subpoena, issued on Dec. 12, also asked her to provide documentation about complaints she made and “all documents relating to any discipline, employment action or other form of retaliation” taken against her by the bank.
The grand jury investigation could result in criminal charges against Wells Fargo.
In September the bank was fined $185 million by federal regulators after employees opened two million fraudulent bank accounts and credit cards to meet sales goals. Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees tied to the scandal, but revelations have surfaced that the company also fired employees for blowing the whistle about phony customer accounts.
Guitron, a former personal banker at the Wells Fargo branch in St. Helena, was fired in January 2010 after she said she made numerous complaints to her manager, human resources and the company’s ethics hotline about the fraudulent bank accounts. She first told NBC Bay Area in October that she believes she was terminated for speaking up about unethical business practices, which she noticed right after she started working for the company in March 2008.
Guitron said she has now become the “squeaky wheel” – contacting lawmakers and regulators about the retaliation she believes she faced for raising red flags. Her federal retaliation lawsuit was dismissed in 2012. She said she welcomes the opportunity to appear before the grand jury to tell her story.
Her attorney Yosef Peretz said his client will comply with the order, which requires the production of documents from Jan. 1, 2006 to the present.
A spokesman for the Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said the office has “no comment, including on the existence or non-existence of an investigation.” A spokesperson for Wells Fargo said the company has no comment.
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Published at 3:38 PM PST on Dec 23, 2016 | Updated at 8:24 PM PST on Dec 23, 2016
Source: Federal Prosecutors Investigating Wells Fargo Over Sales Practices | NBC Bay Area
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Dozens of Wells Fargo Employees Filed Whistleblower Complaints with Feds/OSHA WPP Since 2010 New Data Shows
The majority of complaints involve allegations of corporate fraud and consumer financial fraud, according to OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
By Mark Villarreal and Liz Wagner
Employees raised their hands when they noticed something wasn’t right at Wells Fargo, and say the company fired them because of it. The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has learned dozens of Wells Fargo employees filed retaliation complaints with a federal whistleblower program since 2010. The new data – obtained exclusively by the Investigative Unit – reveals that not only did the bank know about widespread complaints, but the government did, too. Liz Wagner reports in a story that aired on Nov. 22, 2016. (Published Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016)
Dozens of Wells Fargo employees filed whistleblower complaints with the federal government, alleging the company retaliated against them for raising red flags about corporate and consumer financial fraud, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has learned.
The new data, provided by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), reveals that as early as 2010, both Wells Fargo and the government knew about widespread concerns involving the nation’s third largest bank. The numbers were released earlier this month in response to an inquiry by the Investigate Unit.
OSHA’s “preliminary analysis” shows the administration received 65 retaliation complaints across the country from 2010 to September of this year. Wells Fargo complainants sent their cases to the administration’s Whistleblower Protection Program, which is tasked with enforcing various whistleblower laws.
This information has come to light as another former investigator revealed what she believes are flaws in the program designed to protect employees from retaliation. Last month, a former longtime whistleblower investigator detailed how he believes his office mishandled the case of a Bay Area Wells Fargo employee.
It is unclear how many complaints relate to Wells Fargo’s phony account scandal, in which employees fraudulently opened 2 million customer bank accounts and credit cards. But OSHA reports that the majority of the complaints – 63 percent – were filed under statutes that protect employees from retaliation for reporting suspected bank or securities fraud and consumer financial fraud.
The data shows 15 complaints were filed in the western part of the country, where OSHA’s San Francisco regional office is less than two miles from Wells Fargo’s corporate headquarters.
For years, Wells Fargo employees secretly opened credit cards and bank accounts without the consent of customers. In September, the government fined Wells Fargo $185 million for its fraudulent sales practices. The bank fired 5,300 people, but that didn’t stop Congress from skewering former CEO John Stumpf over unethical activity and allegations that the company retaliated against employees who raised red flags to management.
Click here to watch NBC Bay Area’s first investigative report about Wells Fargo and OSHA.
Yesenia Guitron is one of those employees.
She worked as a personal banker at Wells Fargo’s St. Helena branch in the Napa Valley from 2008 to 2010. The Investigative Unit first reported in October that Wells Fargo fired Guitron after she said she alerted the company that bankers had opened fake customer accounts to meet sales goals.
“I did what I was told to do,” she said. “What I was instructed to do by the internal training department and ethics department.”
Guitron filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA in May 2010. But former whistleblower investigator Darrell Whitman revealed to the Investigative Unit last month that no one inside the administration actually investigated her complaint. Instead, he said OSHA’s regional office in San Francisco stalled the complaint for six months and assigned the case to him only to close it, when Guitron filed a federal lawsuit. The court ultimately dismissed her case.
Wells Fargo spokesman Ruben Pulido said company policy prohibits retaliation against employees for reporting information about suspected illegal behavior, including fraud, securities law or regulatory violations.
Yosef Peretz, Guitron’s attorney, believes OSHA failed to recognize the gravity of the claims submitted by his client and other Wells Fargo whistleblowers.
“OSHA did not pay attention to any type of widespread, nationwide allegation of fraud or unethical conduct at Wells Fargo,” he said.
Another Wells Fargo whistleblower complaint crossed Sue Kamlet’s desk in 2014. The former employment lawyer and Assistant U.S. Attorney investigated retaliation complaints for OSHA’s regional office in San Francisco for eight years.
But the Wells Fargo case sat in the back of Kamlet’s file cabinet until she said it was transferred to her supervisor. She said her office was bogged down in a sea of other cases, many of which sat with no action. The Investigative Unit learned that the Wells Fargo case briefly assigned to Kamlet was filed in 2011, and that it’s still pending today.
“That doesn’t surprise me because of the backlog,” Kamlet said. “This huge backlog affected everything we did. Wells Fargo cases were newer than other cases. We handled cases, for the most part, first in – first out.”
The Department of Labor said OSHA is still investigating a handful of Wells Fargo whistleblower complaints. In a September letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has emerged as one of the company’s most fervent critics, the department said that some complaints had no merit under whistleblower laws. The department reported most of the Wells Fargo cases had been concluded through “settlements or other actions.”
But Kamlet points out what she considers to be a problem with whistleblower cases that settle. She said investigators would gather evidence in response to claims of wrongdoing, but unless enforcement agencies specifically asked to review the evidence, the information would go nowhere if cases settled.
“We’d have complainants alleging fraud – sometimes at the criminal level – and the cases would settle,” she said. “The company would settle and the evidence would go to the back of the file cabinet.”
The Whistleblower Protection Program routinely provides summaries of allegations to federal regulatory agencies when people file complaints, but “there is no mechanism for investigators to provide evidence forward to enforcement agencies” Kamlet said.
Congress tasked OSHA with protecting whistleblowers from retaliation, but Kamlet said the administration is also responsible for furthering the public interest by preventing activity – like financial fraud – that could harm consumers.
Kamlet and Whitman have been vocal critics of the Whistleblower Protection Program, alleging that dysfunction inside of their office has failed to bring complainants justice and failed to expose public health and safety concerns and corporate and financial wrongdoing.
Click here to watch NBC Bay Area’s investigation into OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
OSHA fired Whitman last year because he provided internal information to whistleblowers. Whitman filed his own retaliation case with the federal government earlier this year. That case is pending.
Kamlet said the administration fired her in January for failing to efficiently resolve her cases.
Both believe they were terminated for speaking up about problems inside OSHA. A spokesman said the administration can’t comment on personnel issues.
In September, the Department of Labor asked OSHA to undertake a top-to-bottom review of all whistleblower cases related to Wells Fargo since 2010 to “determine what the facts are, what we can do about them and how we can learn from this situation.”
Kamlet said she lacks confidence in the department’s ability to police itself.
“I have been given no reason to trust the Department of Labor,” she said.
The Department of Labor did not respond to multiple requests for comment about Kamlet’s claims.