NEW JERSEY 101.5

Wells Fargo Bank has agreed to strengthen its anti-discrimination policies as part of a settlement that resolves allegations a bank employee pressured a female loan applicant for sex, and that the bank didn’t do enough after hearing of the allegations.

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The agreement was announced today by Acting State Attorney General John Hoffman and the Division on Civil Rights.

“This settlement resolves very troubling allegations,” said 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.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, Wells Fargo issued this statement through Northeast communications manager Kevin Friedlander:

We apologize that one of our customers was put into this situation. At Wells Fargo, we expect our team members to adhere to the highest standards of ethics and business conduct towards customers. When we learn that a team member has violated our policies, we take appropriate action, based upon all of the facts. We continue to take great pride in our company and the honesty and integrity we promote among our team members.

Wells Fargo has agreed to instruct its human resources personnel on how to properly investigate employee-conduct-related customer complaints and will pay the Division on Civil Rights $2,500. Under the terms of its settlement with the state, the bank admits no wrongdoing.

Loan applicant Jeanine 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.

According to Johnson, the banker started turning up at her job, pressuring her for dates and sending her text messages such as “I need sum affection” and asking when he would “get a treat” for his efforts on her behalf. Johnson said after she repeatedly turned the man down, the banker became verbally abusive and told Johnson he would not process her loan. He also allegedly sent Johnson a text message that read, “f--- u and ur loan.”

Johnson has also resolved her complaint with Wells Fargo under a separate settlement.