NEW YORK — Wells Fargo workers are fighting back.
Two former Wells Fargo employees have filed a class action lawsuit against the bank seeking $2.6 billion or more for California workers who were fired or demoted after refusing to open fake accounts.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles County, accuses Wells Fargo of orchestrating a “fraudulent scheme” to boost its stock price that forced employees to “choose between keeping their jobs and opening unauthorized accounts.”
It’s the latest legal headache facing Wells Fargo, which earlier this month was fined $185 million for inflating sales metrics by opening more than two million fake bank and credit card accounts. Wells Fargo also faces a hearing in the House, an investigation from the Department of Justice and is still reeling from a grilling by the Senate banking committee last week.
Wells Fargo has said it fired a stunning 5,300 employees since 2011 for the improper sales tactics.
But dozens of former Wells Fargo workers have reached out to CNNMoney to say they were fired after refusing to open unauthorized accounts — or even after they called the ethics hotline about what they were seeing.
Alexander Polonsky and Brian Zaghi, two former Wells Fargo employees from Los Angeles, say they were terminated after failing to meet unrealistic sales goals of opening 10 accounts per day.
Last week, the two filed the lawsuit in California Superior Court alleging “wrongful termination/retaliation,” violations of California labor code, failure to pay wage and other charges.
Employees who refused to take part in the scam were “systematically and routinely terminated,” while those who did open unauthorized accounts were often promoted, the lawsuit alleges.
Nearly a half-dozen Wells Fargo employees even reached out to CNNMoney to say they were fired after flagging unethical sales tactics by calling the company’s ethics hotline.
The suit said Wells Fargo workers suffered damages including loss of income, back pay and “emotional distress.”
Wells Fargo declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The suit represents California employees who worked at Wells Fargo in the past 10 years or who continue to work there and were fired, demoted or forced to resign due to not meeting their sales quotas.
Besides Wells Fargo itself, the suit said defendants may be amended to include “those who hold an ownership interest in the business.”