The Times has published a series of stomach-rolling firsthand accounts of what it was like to work for the bank, which in September was hit with a fine of $185 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for creating millions of fake checking and credit card accounts to bilk customers. At the time, Wells Fargo said it had laid off more than 5,000 employees caught up in the scheme, which suggested that it was rooting out bad apples. But the Times story shows that Wells Fargo employees were victims of merciless pressure across the company to jack up the number of accounts per customer, resulting in as many as five accounts for a single person, including accounts that were supposed to be used on special days like Christmas or a family member’s birthday.
The employees knew that they were robbing these customers, but were intimidated by their superiors if they voiced dissent. In response, one woman developed a hand sanitizer addiction—as in, she drank hand sanitizer around the office to deal with it all, eventually developing a bottle-a-day habit. Another had to go to the emergency room for anxiety attacks. And yet another contracted shingles from the stress. Shingles is painful!
As Elizabeth Warren told CEO John Stumpf at a Senate Banking Committee hearing in September: “So you haven’t resigned. You haven’t returned a single nickel of your personal earnings. You haven’t fired a single senior executive. Instead, evidently, your definition of accountable is to push the blame to your low-level employees who don’t have the money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves. It’s gutless leadership.” Stumpf should definitely have been fired for overseeing a massive scam. But what’s the punishment for turning your workplace into a psychological torture chamber?