Lawsuit Accuses Wells Fargo of Failing to Protect Female SVP from Sexual Harassment

“Wells Fargo is not some mom-and-pop,” the West Coast Trial Lawyers attorney representing the case told TheStreet.

Over the last decade, Wells Fargo  (WFC) – Get Free Report has navigated a number of concurrent scandals and lawsuits. 

In 2013, the fourth-largest bank in the country shelled out $175 million to settle allegations that it had been charging higher rates and mortgage fees to Black and Hispanic candidates for years. In 2016, it shelled out another $185 million in fines over opening 500,000 credit cards without the customer’s consent and, in 2019, several board members and eventually then-CEO Timothy Sloan resigned following an official bank rebuke from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Most recently, longtime critic Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called for a “break up” of the bank after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ordered Wells Fargo to pay over $3.7 billion for “widespread mismanagement” spanning multiple years.

The company got even more bad PR when, earlier this January, former Wells Fargo India VP Shankar Mishra was accused of drunkenly urinating on a 72-year-old woman aboard an Air India flight from New York’s JFK to New Delhi.

Wells Fargo’s Latest Lawsuit Alleges Massive Sexual Harassment, Rape

The latest lawsuit, which was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday, alleges that a female Senior Vice President was subjected to a “hostile work environment that included rape by a superior, ongoing sexual harassment, vulgar behavior, and retaliation” after she tried to report it to superiors.

According to the lawsuit, a plaintiff referred to as Jane Doe, whose identity was confirmed by TheStreet, joined Wells Fargo as a Senior Vice President, Wealth Advisor in Southern California in April 2018. Between then and her resignation in  July 2021, she alleges to have been subject to “sexually explicit comments and inappropriate touching” by superior Eric R. Pagel. The allegation includes multiple groping instances, telling the plaintiff her “butt look[ed] good in skinny jeans,” suggesting that she “exchange sex for money” and referring to other women as “dogs” in her presence. 

On one occasion, the plaintiff reports drinking at a hotel bar with Pagel, Regional Private Banking Manager and Senior Vice President David Weitzel and four other colleagues during a business trip to Bakersfield, CA in late Jan. 2020. The lawsuit claims that Weitzel walked the plaintiff back to her hotel room and left her there, but Pagel knocked soon after and, after entering, “proceeded to sexually assault and rape Plaintiff while she was intoxicated.”

“I had thought that, being in a professional environment, something like this would never happen to me,” Doe, to whom TheStreet has granted anonymity, said. “I had this mix of emotions from scared to disbelief. A lot of trauma and a lot of shock and just being completely disappointed in Wells Fargo and how they handled and did not handle my case.”

Wells Fargo Is ‘Not Some Mom-And-Pop Shop’

The plaintiff brought up Pagel’s earlier comments to Weitzel on Feb. 27, 2020 and was reportedly told that she should “not give Pagel ‘window of opportunity’ to be inappropriate.”

She waited until November 2020 to file a formal complaint about the assault through the Wells Fargo ethics hotline and reported the incident to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department around the same time. 

The lawsuit claims that Wells Fargo initiated a formal investigation only when she filed another complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2021. After seeing an investigation go on for eight months without progress, the plaintiff resigned in 2021 and began another wealth advisory role.

Wells Fargo declined TheStreet’s requests for comment on the situation. The Los Angeles law firm representing Jane Doe, West Coast Trial Lawyers, said that it is happy to see the plaintiff’s case filed and heard in court — they request a jury trial in the lawsuit.

“They took 11 months to complete an investigation over one incident which anyone who does any kind of human resources administration will tell you is utterly below the standard,” Ron Zambrano, the attorney representing the case, told TheStreet. “Wells Fargo is not some mom-and-pop so I think the two wrongs should both be highlighted.”

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