WASHINGTON-The Department of Labor said it has begun reviewing labor practices at Wells Fargo & Co., stepping up regulatory scrutiny of the bank in the wake of a scandal involving unauthorized customer accounts.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a letter Monday that his department will conduct a "top-to-bottom review" of cases, complaints or violations concerning Wells Fargo over the last several years. The move comes in response to a request from several Democratic senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass), that the department open an investigation into whether the bank improperly compensated account executives, bank tellers, branch managers and customer service representatives.
The Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division is "currently carefully reviewing the issues raised in your letter...to determine the best course of action in this matter," Mr. Perez said in a letter addressed to Ms. Warren. "We take the concerns raised in your letter very seriously."
The department's action follows a Senate committee hearing last week Ms. Warren sharply attacked Wells Fargo Chief Executive John Stumpf, saying the bank's aggressive sales goals drove lower-level employees to open accounts without customer consent. Wells Fargo was fined $185 million by regulators for the alleged misconduct. At the hearing, Mr. Stumpf repeatedly apologized for the behavior that led to employees creating as many as two million unwanted or fictitious customer accounts in an effort to meet sales goals. The bank has fired some 5,300 largely lower-level workers in response.
Sen. Warren welcomed the Labor Department's move. "Every other federal agency with jurisdiction in this matter should follow DOL's lead and promptly determine whether Wells Fargo and its senior executives should be prosecuted or otherwise sanctioned," she said in a statement. At last week's hearing, Ms. Warren called on Mr. Stumpf to resign, return money he earned during the sales scandal and be criminally investigated.
The Labor Department has established a working group to conduct the review. It has also taken other steps to ensure that current and former Wells Fargo employees are aware of worker protection laws, including the creation of a dedicated webpage and specific monitoring of its hotline.
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