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Busted for fraud, Wells Fargo now under fire for labor practices

Eight U.S. senators are calling for federal regulators to investigate whether Wells Fargo (WFC) violated labor laws by failing to pay overtime to tellers and other hourly employees who worked late trying to meet sales quotas.

Elizabeth Warren rebukes Wells Fargo CEO

In a letter Thursday to the U.S. Department of Labor, seven Democrats and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders cited Wells Fargo’s recent $185 million settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to resolve charges that bank employees had opened as many as 2 million accounts on behalf of customers without their consent. 

The deal unveiled “a workplace characterized by stringent sales quotas and aggressive incentives imposed on its employees, and staggering neglect by management,” the lawmakers wrote.  

Appearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf apologized for the scandal which he blamed on what he described as “unethical” behavior on the part of 5,300 lower level workers fired by the bank.

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Addressed to Labor Secretary Tom Perez and David Weil, administrator of the agency’s wage and hour division, the senators also said Wells Fargo employees faced “threats of termination; mandated hours of unpaid overtime; harassment; and other forms of retaliation” as managers sought to meet the lender’s aggressive sales quotas.

Employee complaints about possible violations of wage and hour protections stipulated in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) at Wells Fargo date back as far as 1999, the lawmakers said. 

Wells Fargo declined to comment on the letter or whether it had not compensated hourly workers for overtime.  

In addition to Sanders, other senators signing the request included Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, New Jersey’s Robert Menendez, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.