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USA: OSHA fines Wells Fargo more than $22M for whistleblowing violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ('OSHA') announced, on 1 September 2022, that it had fined Wells Fargo more than $22 million for violations of the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, following an investigation.

Background to the decision

In particular, OSHA outlined that the complainant raised concerns internally about conduct it believed violated financial laws, including wire fraud, in response to which they were terminated. Furthermore, OSHA added that such individual had been directed to falsify customer information and alleged that management was engaged in price fixing and interest rate collusion through exclusive dealing.

Moreover, OSHA noted that, while Wells Fargo had claimed the termination was part of a restructuring process, investigators found that this was inconsistent with the treatment of other managers under the initiative. Following this, OSHA highlighted that the terminated individual had filed a complaint with them.

Findings of OSHA

Specifically, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Doug Parker, stated that "The evidence demonstrates Wells Fargo took retaliatory action against this senior manager for repeatedly expressing concerns about financial management they believed violated federal laws".

Outcomes

As a result of the above, OSHA ordered Wells Fargo to pay more than $22 million. Lastly, OSHA added that both parties have 30 days from the receipt of their findings to file objections and request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

You can read the press release here.