Just when you think you can’t stand to hear another incident about the Wells Fargo Bank scandal and/ or the republican President-elect Donald Trump’s twitter rampage, along comes a story that binds them both. And yet, somehow this fit makes perfect sense.
Emily Glasser fits the pieces together in the following 1/6/17 Wall Street article, “Wells Fargo Investigation Hampered by Outside Attorney Citing a Trump Tie, Labor Department Claims:”
The U.S. Labor Department says an attorney representing Wells Fargo & Co. tried to hamper an investigation into the bank’s treatment of employees and in doing so cited a possible role in the coming Trump administration, according to a letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The Labor Department probe is focused on whether Wells Fargo skirted overtime rules, among other potential labor issues, in a bid to meet lofty sales goals. The agency began its inquiry after the San Francisco bank in September agreed to a $185 million regulatory settlement and enforcement action for illegal practices that included employees opening accounts without customers’ knowledge.
The Labor Department said in a mid-December letter that an outside attorney for the bank, Tammy McCutchen, tried to block an agency investigator from accessing records or conducting interviews at a Wells Fargo facility in Concord, Calif.
“When our investigator responded that the agency retains the authority to conduct investigations as delegated to us by the secretary of Labor and that we planned to proceed with visiting the establishment the next day to conduct interviews, you responded that in a few weeks a new administration would be in place and that you might be part of that administration,” the department said in the letter sent to the attorney.
Ms. McCutchen is a lawyer at employment and labor relations firm Littler Mendelson PC and from 2001 to 2004 was administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division. The letter was sent by a Labor Department Wage and Hour division administrator, David Weil, on Dec. 16.
Through a Littler Mendelson spokeswoman, Ms. McCutchen said Thursday that she disputes the events cited in the letter and denies any improper statements or conduct.
“Never before have I been the subject of assertions such as those contained in the letter and I believe that my reputation for collegiality, ethics and professionalism, both while defending our firm’s clients and during my previous tenure at the [DOL’s Wage and Hour Division], is well known.”
The spokeswoman added in a Friday statement that the investigator provided Wells Fargo with less than 24 hours notice of in-person interviews at the bank’s facility, and Wells Fargo gave access within 72 hours of the request. It is also in the process of providing or already provided data and documents the DOL requested.
Wells Fargo spokeswoman Jennifer Dunn said Thursday that the bank is cooperating with the Labor Department and will continue to do so. “We are unaware of any basis for these surprising allegations, which are counter to the commitment we have to fully cooperate with all government investigations,” she said.
A Labor Department spokeswoman declined to comment. The Trump transition team didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the Labor Department’s letter, Mr. Weil said that regardless of whether Ms. McCutchen may end up with a position in the new administration, “citing such a role in the context of an investigation represents a potential violation of the requirements of recusal from matters related to the activities of agencies for transition team members.“
. Weil added that “your conduct could be perceived as an intention to intimidate a government official in the conduct of their official duties.”abor Department Secretary Thomas Perez in late September announced a review of all Wells Fargo cases, complaints and other alleged violations in a letter sent to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.). It followed an earlier letter from Democratic senators, including Sen. Warren, urging a Labor investigation over whether the bank skirted overtime laws and failed to properly compensate bank tellers and associates who worked long hours to meet sales quotas, or salaried bank associates misclassified as overtime-exempt officers.