Wells Fargo will appeal an OSHA order issued earlier this week in which the agency ordered Wells Fargo to pay a former manager-turned-whistleblower a $5.4 million reward and reinstate him at the company. Wells Fargo terminated the whistleblower in 2010 after he reported problems to both his superiors and a banking ethics hotline, was given 90 days to find a new job in the company, and did not succeed in doing so. The whistleblower’s identity has not been made public, and the OSHA finding is reportedly unrelated to last fall’s high-profile scandal involving the secret opening of unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts, which resulted in $185 million in fines.
A Wells Fargo spokesperson called the OSHA order “preliminary,” noting that “to date there has been no hearing on the merits of the case.” The company will request a full hearing on the matter before an administrative law judge. In the meantime, however, the reinstatement order will not be stayed.
As we’ve previously detailed, OSHA determined the former manager’s whistleblowing, protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, “was at least a contributing factor in his termination.” OSHA’s jurisdiction over the case is a product of Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower provisions that protects employees who report violations of consumer, financial, and other laws. Similarly-situated whistleblowers may also bring retaliation and fraud claims to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s whistleblower office or in federal court under the False Claims Act.
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