Michael Filoromo Discusses Wells Fargo Case with Cafebanking

Katz, Marshall and Banks partner Michael Filoromo participated in an interview with Cafebanking entitled, "How Could 700 Complaints Against Wells Fargo Go Unheeded - Discussion Wth a Whistleblower Attorney." In the interview, Michael Filoromo discussed why, despite receiving over 700 whistleblower complaints about Wells Fargo's sales practices by 2010, which included the creation of fake accounts to boost sales numbers, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) failed to intervene. Mr. Filoromo noted that on one hand, 700 employee complaints in a company with hundreds of thousands of employees represented only a small fraction of the workforce.  “On the other hand," he said, "700 complaints about essentially the same practice is a big enough number that someone should have taken note." An OCC internal investigation concluded that the point person overseeing Wells Fargo did not adequately respond to claims that employees were opening thousands of "dummy" bank accounts to boost performance metrics. 

Unlike the SEC and CFTC whistleblower award programs, the OCC does not have a clear set of whistleblowing procedures. According to Mr. Filoromo, “Some of the people who complained to OCC may have been part of the purge of over 5,000 Wells Fargo employees that happened later. But you can’t really tell what happened to these whistleblowers."

Mr. Filoromo went on to explain that because there is not an OCC-specific anti-retaliation statute, whistleblowers who faced retaliation for reporting issues internally would have had to seek recourse elsewhere: "[W]ith a large, publicly traded financial institution like Wells Fargo, there are a lot of anti-retaliation laws potentially at play, such as the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA)," he said. If whistleblowers are facing a situation where they have faced retaliation for filing a complaint, and no action is being taken to address the complaint, Mr. Filoromo noted that filing an anti-retaliation complaint is one option to remedy the harm they suffered while drawing the government’s attention to the underlying misconduct. "The complaint will be routed to whatever agency regulates the companies or enforces laws related to the underlying conduct about which the person complained." He added, "Another way individuals can force the issue – or at least shed light on the conduct about which they are concerned – is through an established whistleblower program." To find out more information on this topic, read the full interview here.