The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is usually associated with hazmat suits, chemical warnings, or people in yellow suits (kind of like Breaking Bad, except legal, and safer). Now, for Wells Fargo, mentioning OSHA probably brings to mind images of a $5.4 million award – the largest ever awarded to an individual by OSHA.
It all started five years ago, with an unnamed manager working in a Wells Fargo branch near Los Angeles, CA. The manager reported that separate acts by two bankers under his supervision may have actually been bank, mail, and wire fraud. Wells Fargo apparently responded by providing the manager with 90 days to find a new position in the company. When he did not, Wells Fargo terminated the manager.
OSHA investigated and, unfortunately for Wells Fargo, concluded that the manager’s reports were (1) protected by the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which protects employees who report violations of consumer, financial, and related laws, and (2) at least a contributing factor in Wells Fargo’s decision to terminate him. In addition to the $5.4 million, OSHA also required Wells Fargo to reinstate the manager to his previous position.
Of course, OSHA’s blow strikes quickly after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau levied $185 million against Wells Fargo for “the widespread illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.” See http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/08/493130449/wells-fargo-to-pay-around-190-million-over-fake-accounts-that-sparked-bonuses.