Big Banks Finally Punishing Employees For Fraud… Like The Call Center Guy Who Used A Fake Dime 50 Years Ago

from the rules-are-rules? dept

Wells Fargo, of course, was one of a bunch of the big banks heavily involved in questionable activities that brought the world to the precarious economic conditions we’re still living in today. Just a few weeks ago, the company settled charges that it had misled cities and non-profits when selling them risky securities without disclosing the risks. The company gets a slap on the wrist — without having to admit guilt — and one executive (again without admitting guilt) gets a six month suspension. Have you heard about any top execs at any of the banks getting fired for financial malfeasance? No? Well, perhaps it’s because they’re focusing on the real trouble makers. Like Richard Eggers. 49 years ago, Eggers, as a teenager, tried to stick a cardboard cutout of a dime into a washing machine. He didn’t get away with it at the time, and was arrested for fraud. He somehow put his life back together and, until recently, was a phone customer service agent for Wells Fargo.

And now he’s really paying the piper: Wells Fargo has just fired him for the decades-old incident that, again, involved a dime. Even accounting for inflation, we’re talking about a dime. However, thanks to supposedly “tough” new regulations concerning financial institutions, barring them from employing execs convicted of fraud, Wells Fargo is claiming that it had to fire Eggers.

“We don’t have discretion to grant exceptions in situations like this. Once we find out someone has a criminal history of dishonesty or breach of trust we can no longer employ them.”

Eggers has responded by filing a civil rights complaint against the company and federal regulators. He and his lawyers are hoping to turn it into a class action lawsuit, as apparently a number of other employees at banks have lost their jobs under these rules. Actual execs responsible for the financial crisis? Not so much.

This is yet another case where laws like this must “sound good at the time” to the policy makers putting them together without any sense of who it will really impact. And the end result is that we sure are making Mr. Eggers “pay” for that dime stunt in 1963, huh?

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Companies: wells fargo

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Comments on “Big Banks Finally Punishing Employees For Fraud… Like The Call Center Guy Who Used A Fake Dime 50 Years Ago”

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51 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The article does say *arrested* for fraud, not convicted. That presumably means that charges were dropped and no conviction was made, hence not guilty in the eyes of the law.

I’m not sure how things happen in the US, but I’d definitely be OK with hiring someone who’s merely been arrested for something with the charges later dropped. It was probably brought up during the interview and accepted for what it actually was (a dumb prank by a dumb kid), not the entire basis of someone’s character. Given that the guy seems to have kept his nose clean since, I don’t see the problem.

But then, the real question is not why he was hired in the first place, but why it’s been OK for nearly 50 years and then the guy is fired with no evidence of further wrongdoing. I’d hate for my employer to start looking at what I did when I was a teenager and then judge my current character and employability on that rather than what I’ve done in the mean time, as would most people.

Chris Brand says:

Re: His Mistake

Really, his mistake was getting caught.
If he’d gotten away with it, he’d be fine.

And no doubt if he’d convinced the laundrette that the only reason he’d tried the stunt was because he was so desperately poor, and really it’s good for society as a whole for him to have clean clothes, and so they’d ended up giving him free laundry service for life, *then* he’d certainly not be a lowly call center guy…

DOlz says:

Re: Re: His Mistake

No, the problem was the size of his crime. We’ve seen people at the top get caught with the most egregious crimes and at most get a wrist slap. Most recently where Goldman-Saches was fined for ripping off it’s customers, but the (in)Justice Department said it didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute any individuals at the firm.

Ninja (profile) says:

Oh but we the people are watching all this. It’s becoming increasingly hard for the ones in power to sustain this system with a straight face. And that’s why we are falling into censorship efforts all around. Because you can’t sustain a system where a huge majority gets punished for very small misdeeds while a small select group gets away from insanely huge ‘mischiefs’ without even a scratch.

I hope this turns into a class action and they win. It would be one small victory.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not sure what the new regulations put in place since 2008 actually say, but this sounds like any of a dozen stories I’ve heard – some from a bank manager who handled them personally – where the bank really does have their hands tied. He deals with customer information like account numbers, SSNs, and has a fraud conviction.

As has been pointed out, convicting a teenager for fraud over 10 cents is the real problem here. Stupid, vindictive prosecutors were as much a problem as now (re: teenagers getting put on the sex offender registry for sex acts with other teenagers) and while you can blame the bank – and I can certainly see why it’s tempting to raise a parallel to how no executives have been charged with anything despite the gross, obvious malfeasance – it’s really irrelevant. A fraud conviction is supposed to be a complete, unequivocal red flag for those involved in banking, and he has one. I think it’s not worth a guy losing his job over, but there’s no legitimate way to carve out this particular situation from the law without making a mess of things.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You have a very good point here and I’m sure Mike has discussed that before (though I don’t feel inclined to dig the articles). Obviously this is a 2 weight, 2 measure case where the banks should be punishing their higher executives but it highlights another very problematic issue in the US: the fact that any minor crime puts a red flag on any1 for life. Over aggressive laws, conviction of teenagers that were just being mischievous (thus ruining their adult lives). The fact that 1/4 of the world jail population is in the US should be telling and worrying.

And in the end, what does that achieve? The person gets his/her life ruined for some minor theft and is restricted from getting decent jobs that would offer decent wages and maybe, just maybe, allow then to live a normal life, have a decent family and be a better person. Nah, let us fuck up their entire lives even if they learned and won’t do it again. Welcome to America, my friends.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

convicting a teenager for fraud over 10 cents is the real problem here.

While that’s a problem, it’s not the only one. Another problem is that there exists this bizarre one-strike-and-you’re-out idea.

Things like this cannot be handled by blanket policy. If we’re to have anything that can be called “justice” without laughing, then these cases have to be looked at on their own individual merits.

If someone commits fraud in their youth, but then lives for half a century more without committing any crime whatsoever, there is no rational reason to trust them any less than someone who never committed fraud. People make mistakes, and a single case of poor judgement while young does not indicate the person is criminal by nature.

David Woodhead (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A fraud conviction is supposed to be a complete, unequivocal red flag for those involved in banking, and he has one. I think it’s not worth a guy losing his job over, but there’s no legitimate way to carve out this particular situation from the law without making a mess of things.

Really? Is it really the case that the combined might of the entire judicial system and financial regulatory authorities of the US is unable to distinguish a teenager making a cardboard dime from a financial fraudster?

Because if that’s the case then your country is screwed.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

where the bank really does have their hands tied.

Well, they do have to report it, but their hands are not completely tied.

They can appeal to the regulators on a case by case basis for common sense to win out.

But that takes effort, and with the current state of the economy, it is easier to replace him than to bother with appealing. If however, it was a high-paid exec who had a similar 10-cent fraud conviction – you bet they would appeal.

(Full disclosure: I work for the bank mentioned in this story. I don’t work with customer data, but I am in the information security and access control group and have had to pass similar checks.)

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

where the bank really does have their hands tied.

Well, they do have to report it, but their hands are not completely tied.

They can appeal to the regulators on a case by case basis for common sense to win out.

But that takes effort, and with the current state of the economy, it is easier to replace him than to bother with appealing. If however, it was a high-paid exec who had a similar 10-cent fraud conviction – you bet they would appeal.

(Full disclosure: I work for the bank mentioned in this story. I don’t work with customer data, but I am in the information security and access control group and have had to pass similar checks.)

iambinarymind (profile) says:

Issue is the State Regulation...

This has occured due to another example of State regulation/force, this time against the mortgage industry. If an employee is found to have any past “crimes” of theft or deceit, the company can be fined up to hundreds of thousdands of dollars a day for each instance.

As usual, the use of force/coercion in an apparant attempt to solve a complex social issue results in much more harm than good.

The initiation of force is immoral, in all forms (force/coercion/theft/fraud) no matter what label is placed on the individual(s).

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We had a chance to recover: let all those large financial corporations fail. But just like Japan, we now have zombified banks who carry rotten assets whose actual value never has to be revealed. We had a choice, short-term pain or long-term pain, and we choose the latter. Get ready for a lost decade (or more). All the while, the Keynesian carrot of “if we only infuse a few trillion more into the economy, we’ll be fine”. Right, just like a drink “cures” a hangover.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is actually a fallacy based on a grave misunderstanding of Keynesian economics.

In simple terms Keynes actually advocated a 7 fat/7 skinny cows approach to economics. If governments implement it correctly they should store up cash and equity during the good years, then spend it during the bad years – maintaining somewhat of a balance.

The countries who got in trouble at the back end of 2000’s were following whogivesafuckian economic theory which basically takes a sell everything that’s worth anything and spend, spend, spend. (UK and labour on vanity projects like the Dome, US on the war machine).

What happened is these governments were suddenly faced with the banks being unable to keep up the charade, and as the walls came tumbling down they suddenly switched to Keynesian economics which advocated… spend (more) money to kickstart the economy. Brilliant.

tl;dr:-

Keynesian economic theory advocates that govs save during the fat times, spend during the lean times. These governments spent during the fat times, then used Keynes to justify spending during the lean times.

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I wish I could mark you insightful eleventy billion times. That is perhaps my biggest pet peeve whenever anyone talks about Keynes.

Keynes philosophy revolves around two pieces, and without both you DO NOT have a Keynesian policy. Everyone knows the second piece – deficit spend during a recession.

But the first part is perhaps even more important. It’s not just about saving up money during the boom times. You actually want to raise taxes (or take other measures which inhibit growth) during boom times, to prevent the economy from “overheating” so to speak.

For example, it would have been appropriate to raise the interest rate back in the mid 2000’s. This could have stopped or at least mitigated the housing bubble. As a bonus, this might have also led to a surplus which could have been used to avoid borrowing to pay for stimulus.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Iceland

I really wish the US had some balls and wasn’t so entrenched in the banking systems pockets. Over in Iceland with all of the banks that caused a very similar situation, Iceland actually went after the execs that helped promote and push the situation that caused the crash. It has sent some to prison, is prosecuting others (at least I think they still are, I haven’t checked up on it in awhile) and is even seizing their assets from the ill-gotten gains. Over here in America, for screwing over the country Bush gave them all a huge bonus. Wtf?

Doubletwist (profile) says:

F*CK Wells Fargo

When I was young I moved across the country. Not knowing any better, I put my money into a Wells Fargo. At some point later, AOL attempted to put charges through to my old bank which they were NOT authorized to do. Unbeknownst to me, I had been reported to Chex Systems for $32 in “over-draft” fees.

Wells Fargo made me take my money out of their bank, telling me I could come back when it was fixed. I got AOL to admit fault, pay the fees, and got the records removed from Chex Systems [as if it had never happened]. When I went back to WF with my money, the manager spoke to me like I was a dirty hobo asking for a handout, and told me I was not allowed to have an account with Wells Fargo for seven years. All over $32 which I owed to SOMEONE ELSE, and which wasn’t my fault.

Yeah, as if I’d just be begging to give my money back to Wells Fargo ever again. So F*ck Wells Fargo. They will never, ever see a single dime of my money, ever.

Anonymous Coward says:

I love the excuses that the bank management uses…we had no choice…none whatsoever…but to fire this poor man…really, we had no choice…the government forced us to.

It’s called sticking up for the little guy. But, instead they took the easy way out and fired the guy…they’re not my banking institution of choice anyway, but I’d NEVER do business with them…immoral cretins.

This is exactly why banks can’t be trusted…they can’t even understand how to comply with a regulation. What a joke! They need to take some accountability for their actions and stop blaming the government. Frickin idiots!

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