It's hard to imagine a bank -- candidly, any business in the United States, regardless of industry -- suffering through a tougher year than Wells Fargo did in 2016.
Many of our readers know the material details -- some, perhaps, because of personally painful experiences suffered through their interactions with the bank -- linked with evidence confirming that official bank policy stressed defrauding legions of customers by signing them up for multiple accounts without their knowledge, and charging them related fees in the process.
That stunning news dominated national media accounts for many months last year. The matter essentially crested, as Reuters notes, "after Wells Fargo was ordered to pay $190 million in fines and customer restitution." That mandate issued because "its high-pressure sales environment led to the opening of as many as two million accounts that customers may not have authorized."
That wrongdoing and public-relations glitch actually focused on only half of the problem.
The other side of the coin was this: A number of bank employees stated they were fired for reporting the wrongdoing through internal bank channels, with others stating that the extra hours they had to work to meet sales quotas were not duly compensated as required by law.
Last September, the U.S. Department of Labor created a website focused solely on the bank's improprieties, with one core component of its target audience being current and ex-employees with issues and concerns relating to bank retaliation against them for whistleblower activities.
That website is no longer online, despite a pledge made by its creator -- former DOL Secretary Thomas Perez -- that his department would closely monitor it to ensure a thorough review of all complaints received.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wants to know why, voicing concerns that its sudden offline status "enables Wells Fargo to escape full responsibility for its fraudulent actions." Warren wrote a letter last week to current Acting Labor Secretary Edward Hugler questioning why the website has been taken down.
Warren and others are pushing for an update on the DOL's review of bank-directed complaints.