The Former Khmer Rouge Slave Who Became a Whistleblower Against Wells Fargo
The New York Times reports on former Wells Fargo employee Duke Tran who blew the whistle on the company for allegedly being ordered to lie to customers who were facing foreclosure in 2014. Mr. Tran was fired from his job at Wells Fargo and since then has been locked in a four-year legal battle with the company alleging he was fired as retaliation for blowing the whistle on the bank’s alleged deceptive practices. Mr. Tran told the bank that he did not want his job back he wanted Wells Fargo to admit it was wrong to fire him and wrong to mislead customers regarding their foreclosures back in 2014.
Mr. Tran first came to the United States in the late 1970s after surviving the Vietnam War and being snuck over the border into Cambodia. While in Cambodia, Mr. Tran was captured by fighters from the Khmer Rouge regime and was treated like a slave. Mr. Tran was forced to drink vinegar to expel gold the Khmer Rouge fighters believed he had swallowed. Eventually, Mr. Tran was traded to humanitarian workers for a kilogram of rice, two boxes of canned tuna, two boxes of sardines, antibiotics, and other medical supplies.
Mr. Tran started working in various call centers in the 1980s and continued in that line of work for over twenty years. He began working in a call center for Wells Fargo’s collections unit in 2002. At the peak of the financial crisis in 2008, Wells Fargo had bought a portfolio of home-equity loans from another company. The bank examined the loans in 2013 and realized that it was missing some documentation to prove that the borrowers actually owed money to the bank. Mr. Tran dealt with multiple customers over the phone who claimed that they received letters from the bank saying they owed thousands of dollars on loans they never took out and Mr. Tran said internally the company allegedly could not locate the documents proving the customers owed the bank money. The bank allegedly instructed Mr. Tran to never tell the customers that the documents could not be located internally.
Despite Mr. Tran’s insistence that he wanted to go to court and get Wells Fargo to admit wrongdoing, he ultimately settled his case against Wells Fargo for a seven-figure sum according to sources familiar with the settlement. Some of the customers at the root of Mr. Tran’s complaints are still battling the bank today.