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Wells Fargo faces Labor Department review for possible workplace violations

By Jim Puzzanghera Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON – The Labor Department has launched a “top-to-bottom review” of how Wells Fargo & Co. treated employees as it pushed the aggressive sales quotas that led to the bank’s fake-accounts scandal.

A working group that includes officials from five Labor Department enforcement divisions has been established to conduct a “thorough and expedient review” of complaints against Wells Fargo in recent years alleging failure to pay overtime and other possible infractions, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said.

And the agency has set up a special website for current and former Wells Fargo employees to instruct them how to file complaints about labor law violations. Workers with questions also can call the department’s toll-free hotline ((866) USADOL) or send an email to

“Given the serious nature of the allegations, the recent actions of federal partners and recent media reports, I have directed enforcement agencies with the department to conduct a top-to-bottom review of cases, complaints or violations concerning Wells Fargo over the last several years,” Perez wrote Monday in a letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said Tuesday the bank had no comment.

Warren and seven other senators wrote to Perez last week asking for an investigation in the wake of Wells Fargo’s agreement to pay $185 million to settle investigations by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and federal regulators into improper sales tactics.

The senators noted several civil lawsuits and other complaints by Wells Fargo workers alleging the bank failed to pay overtime for late nights and weekends spent working to meet sales quotas.

The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration whistleblower program “has received a number of complaints from Wells Fargo employees” over the past five years, Perez said. The majority of cases have been concluded “through settlement or other actions” and some were determined to have no merit, he said.

But OSHA still is investigating “at least a handful of complaints” from current or former Wells Fargo employees, Perez said. He is asking OSHA to review all open and closed cases against Wells Fargo since 2010.

“We take the concerns raised in your letter very seriously,” Perez wrote to Warren.

The Department’s Wage and Hour Division is reviewing the concerns raised by the senators to determine if it will launch an investigation into Wells Fargo’s pay practices, he said.

Warren said she was glad the Labor Department was conducting the review.

“Every other federal agency with jurisdiction in this matter should follow DOL’s lead and promptly determine whether Wells Fargo and its senior executives should be prosecuted or otherwise sanctioned,” she said.

Senate and House committees have launched their own investigations and the Justice Department is looking into possible criminal charges.

The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday with Wells Fargo Chief Executive John Stumpf.

The panel’s chairman, Rep. Jeb Hernsarling, R-Texas, has been sharply critical of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for not identifying the problems sooner.

But unlike last week’s Senate Banking Committee hearing, the House hearing will not include CFPB Director Richard Cordray, any other official from the agency or the other federal banking regulator involved in the settlements, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Stumpf will be the only witness.

Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Hensarling, said that the committee’s investigation has just started and that it is collecting documents from Wells Fargo and the regulators. The committee “expects to call Director Cordray to testify in the near future,” Emerson said.

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