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Wells Fargo settles with NJ over bank employee who pressed loan applicant for sex

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: As part of a settlement resolving charges that a Wells Fargo Bank employee pressured a female loan applicant for sex, the bank has agreed to strengthen its anti-discrimination policies, state officials announced this morning.

In addition to updating its anti-discrimination and harassment policies, Wells Fargo has agreed to provide instruction to its human resources personnel on how to properly investigate employee-conduct-related customer complaints, and will  pay the Division on Civil Rights $2,500, they said.

The applicant, Jeanine Johnson of Newark, also seperately resolved her complaint against the bank.

“This settlement resolves very troubling allegations,” said Acting Attorney General John Hoffman. “People who seek a bank loan have every right to anticipate that their privacy and their dignity will be respected, and that they will not be pressured to engage in any sort of unlawful and offensive quid pro quo bargain in order to obtain the loan they’ve requested.”

“The policy reform and staff training components of this settlement are particularly important,” said state Division on Civil Rights Director Craig T. Sashihara. “Not only is it vital that Wells Fargo’s banking employees be reminded of what constitutes harassing behavior; it also is vital that the company’s human resources personnel be aware of how to conduct an effective, thorough investigation when a customer has complained about an employee’s words or actions.”

Johnson told Division on Civil Rights investigators that she was employed at a rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike in January 2011 when she met a Wells Fargo personal banker who said he could help with a loan she hoped to obtain.

Johnson said she called him and he suggested discussing her loan needs over dinner and a movie. Johnson said she declined but met him at a diner for coffee.

There, she said, she gave him her pay stubs and tax records, and filled out a Wells Fargo loan application.

At that point, Johnson said, the banker then began showing up at her job, pressuring her for dates and sending her text messages such as “I need sum affection.”

She said he also asked when he would “get a treat” for helping her.

After several turndowns, she said, the banker became verbally abusive and said he wouldn’t process her loan. He also allegedly sent Johnson a text message that read,  “f—  u and ur loan.”

Johnson complained to the Wells Fargo branch where he worked in Madison (Morris County), where she’d once visited to ask about the progress of her loan application.

According to Wells Fargo records, two managers subsequently interviewed the employee, who didn’t deny Johnson’s allegations but said they were in a personal relationship that predated the loan.

The two supervisors cautioned the employee about the need to separate his personal and professional lives when dealing with banking matters but otherwise took no action, according to Hoffman.

They closed their internal review without ever asking Johnson for her veresion of the events, he said.

Wells Fargo fired him in February 2011, “ostensibly over issues unrelated to Johnson’ harassment allegations,” Hoffman said.

The bank — which under terms of its settlement with the State admits no wrongdoing — never notified Johnson about the status of her loan application, he added.

Deputy Attorney General Farng-Yi Foo, assigned to the Division of Law, Investigators Agnes Roncaglio and Ana Limo-Magras, and Regional Manager Carolyn Paul handled the Wells Fargo settlement on behalf of the Division on Civil Rights.

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