Wells Fargo Shocked By Employee Theft

November 4, 2016

Irony can be a pretty funny thing.  For example, take Wells Fargo's much publicized cross-selling and leveraging of its customer base. By most measures, that strategy was a phenomenal success resulting in the opening of many new customer accounts. Unfortunately, that same strategy produced a $185 million fines when it turned out that 2 million of those new accounts were unauthorized. Why did Wells Fargo undertake such a dramatic push for new business?  Likely to boost its bottom line and enhance its reputation. What did it cost the firm when its bogus account rampage was revealed? It took a hit to its bottom line and its credibility and integrity were hammered. How ironic, no? The gods have not quite finished playing with this mighty Wall Street firm: Consider a recent bit of irony involving an employee ripping off the firm.

Case In Point

For the purpose of proposing a settlement of rule violations alleged by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"), without admitting or denying the findings, prior to a regulatory hearing, and without an adjudication of any issue, Susan Kathleen Menne submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In the Matter of Susan Kathleen Menne, Respondent (AWC 2016050193401, October 31, 2016).

 In August 2014, Menne became associated in a non-registered capacity with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. The AWC asserts that Menne had no prior disciplinary history.

Holiday Gift Giving

The AWC asserts that In December 2015, Menne took $200 worth of gift cards from Wells Fargo Advisors and, thereafter, starting on January 2, 2016, she used the cards to pay for personal purchases. All of which sort of sounds like a self-help version of a Christmas present used to buy New Year's gifts. It's also more than a bit ironic that a Wells Fargo employee is stealing from that firm.

Shocked . . . Shocked!

The AWC alleges that Wells Fargo terminated Menne on May 11, 2016, and in a May 31, 2016, Uniform Termination Notice for Securities Industry Registration ("Form U5"), the firm stated that she:

[c]ame into possession of, and used, gift cards that had been taken from the same area of the Firm in which Ms. Menne worked."

You'd sort of like to think that Wells Fargo would have had some compassion, some empathy for its wayward employee.  If nothing else, maybe the firm would have felt some shock of recognition and mused about "been there, done that" or "there but for the grace of God go I." After all, Wells Fargo came into possession of and used customer accounts that were, in a sense, "taken" from customers in the same area of the firm where many employees worked. 

Apparently Wells Fargo doesn't appreciate the subtleties of irony because in May 2016, Menne was allegedly charged with misdemeanor theft of property, to which she pleaded guilty in August 2016. All of which suggests that Wells Fargo pressed criminal charges. Oh my, Wells Fargo was shocked . . . shocked . . . to find that one of its employees was a thief. Remember when Wells Fargo said it had fired about 5,300 employees for their misconduct with the opening of so-called ghost accounts? By the way, anyone recall whether Wells Fargo was charged with misdemeanor theft in connection with those so-called ghost accounts?

In accordance with the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon Menne a Bar from association with any FINRA member in any capacity.

Bill Singer's Comment

Seventy-four-years ago, the classic film "Casablanca" was released but it seems only yesterday when Wells Fargo paid $185 million in fines and penalties to settle a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") investigation that uncovered some 2 million unauthorized accounts. READ the CFPB Wells Fargo Consent Order

When it came to casting the role of Rick for the classic film "Casablanca," we got Humphrey Bogart. When it came to casting the role of Wells Fargo's CEO, we got John Stumpf. How unfortunate; and let's not even begin to discuss the disparity between the supporting casts. Imagine how Bogie would have handled those clowns in Congress when they tried to press him for answers about his firm's alleged misconduct.

Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, Menne walks into Wells Fargo. It's not like Menne was a crook or anything. Well, okay, maybe she was but it's not like she wasn't surrounded by a corporate culture that placed a premium on setting up bogus accounts and ripping off its customers. Couldn't Wells Fargo have simply opened up just one more bogus account in Menne's name, run up $200 in charges, and then left it at that? Even stevens. Once more for old time's sake. Couldn't Wells Fargo have laughed at the irony of one of its employees ripping it off after the firm had done the same to 2 million customers? 

Maybe my sense of humor is a bit of an acquired taste. Maybe my warped view of right and wrong is a bit dated. Might explain why I still love "Casablanca." Might also explain my disgust with Wells Fargo and its tired excuses.