Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees for creating fake accounts and pin numbers, but several former employees say they were fired for a far different reason: whistleblowing.
"They ruined my life," Bill Bado, a former employee in Pennsylvania, told CNNMoney this week, explaining that he was fired after calling an ethics hotline and sending an email to Wells Fargo's human resources department in 2013 to report he'd been ordered to open fake accounts.
Eight days after he sent his email, Bado was fired from his job, under the grounds of tardiness.
Earlier this week, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf told a Senate hearing that all team members are encouraged to report wrongdoing, but a former Wells Fargo human resources official told CNN the bank has ways to fight back against whistleblowers.
Usually, the company would monitor the employee until it found cause to fire that person, such as showing up a few minutes late for work several times, the former official said.
"If this person was supposed to be at the branch at 8:30 a.m. and they showed up at 8:32 a.m, they would fire them," the former human resources official told CNNMoney under the condition of anonymity.
Altogether, four former workers, including Bado, said they were fired for tipping off the bank about unethical activities. Another six people said they witnessed retaliation agoinst whistleblowers.
"It is clearly against the law for any company (or executives of such companies) to try to suppress whistleblowing," Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the SEC, told CNNMoney, pointing out statutes such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank forbid such behavior.
Another employee, Heather Brock, said she was fired earlier this month as a senior business banker in Round Rock, Texas after she called the ethics line.
"I endured harsh bullying ... defamation of character, and eventually being pinned for something I didn't do," Brock said, after the bank fired her and accused her of falsifying documents.
Yet another woman reported wrongdoing directly to Stumpf in an email in 2011 and lost her job as well.
Bado said when he was fired, his securities license was hampered, so he can't find another job in a bank. He now works part-time at a grocery store and is on the verge of losing his home In New Jersey.
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman told CNNMoney that retaliation against whistleblowing workers is not tolerated.
But Brock disagreed. "You lose if you do complain and you lose if you don't. What does a powerless employee do?" Brock said.
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