There have been numerous cases of fraudulent actions committed by organizations and covered in press. Employees who work in companies with toxic corporate cultures are often challenged by their need to speak up about illegal procedures they are made to do on a daily basis. They often have a psychological or moral reluctance to engage in such activities, but may not feel safe to express their concerns due to the fear of being fired. Wells Fargo is the company that had been committing fraud for about 10 years, with the early documentation of its cross-selling strategies dating back to 2009 (Veetikazhi & Krishnan, 2018). Some whistleblowers among Wells Fargo’s employees tried to raise concerns about multiple fake accounts and other examples of fraudulent actions, such as using customers’ personal information and “enrolling them in different products without their knowledge” (“Wells Fargo and moral emotions,” 2020). However, their complaints were not addressed, and most of the efforts failed. The actions that I would take as a whistle-blower in Wells Fargo will be presented and discussed in this case study.
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First, if I noticed any suspicious activity in the workplace, I would decide to clarify the issue with my supervisor. Not knowing the scale of illegal operations yet, I would try to be cautious while discussing them, because the supervisors and other workers may be involved into the fraud. If they did not pay due attention to my complaints, while illegal operations continued, I would contact Wells Fargo Ethics hotline and the HR department, explaining what is happening. I would put my concerns in writing, trying to be discrete and avoid giving any reasons to fire me, because in that case I would not be able to collect the evidence of illegal activities. After I have discussed my concerns with the supervisor and the HR staff, several possible scenarios may arise. First, the bank management might try to investigate the matter, looking into my accusations. The second scenario is that they do not react in any way. Both options are most likely to include the managers’ excuses, and justifying the bank’s policies and unreasonable requirements.
However, if there is still nothing done and the problem is not addressed in any way, I would probably begin to realize that top executives are actively involved in the fraud. In that case, I would feel responsible to contact superior government agencies outside the bank, such as the Department of Justice. For that, I would have to do some work on collecting documentation that would prove different cases of fake accounts creation and other fraudulent activities. Presenting this evidence, I would report the wrongdoings as being in the area of criminal offense and breaking the law to the State agency.
Despite the fact that Wells Fargo replaced most of its top executives and claimed to have improved its sales strategies, I believe that these changes were made out of the need to avoid further penalties. Shame and embarrassment might have played a role, but it seems extremely insignificant and unlikely given the years of illegal activities committed by the bank. Its work was based on the fraud for so long and on such a massive scale, that it is hard to believe that their principles could have improved even though many changes were introduced. Despite the fact that Wells Fargo governance system is different now, I think that the clients should still take into consideration all the previous experiences before they choose to use the bank’s services.
Veetikazhi, R., & Krishnan, G. (2018). Wells Fargo: Fall from great to miserable: A case study on corporate governance failures. South Asian Journal of Business and Management Cases, 8(1), 88-99.
Wells Fargo and moral emotions. (2020). Web.